Editors Note: When I was a young man, that Albright kid from Juaniata (pronounced: june-e-at-ah) was spoken of in hushed and reverent tones.by those "in the know". He wasn't some rich kid from the suburbs claiming Philadelphia as home. He lived in the shadow of the Market Frankford Line, "the El" as we called it., and he was good...for real good, is what they would say. So many years later, after "keeping an eye" on that kid for the better part of 15 years, it seems fitting to look back at what he accomplished. It was a good career, one to be proud of and most importantly, the world had turned just enough that a kid who kicked a ball at Lighthouse field can retire in front of a sell out crowd a PPL Park. Well done Chris, thanks for the memories and we wish you all the best,
You would be hard-pressed to remember a special Chris Albright moment as a member of the Philadelphia Union besides his retirement ceremony almost two weeks ago. He notched only 10 appearances here, and didn't register a goal or assist. It'd be tough to even recall a crucial tackle he made in the Union's half of the field. Albright might have registered all of his success outside of PPL Park, but his legacy is a fateful reminder of the kind of phenomenal talent that the club can find in the Delaware Valley to help strengthen its future.
Nearly all of Albright's accomplishments were achieved as a defender, but most people don't remember thatthe Penn Charter graduate started his career as a striker. In fact, coming out of college at the University of Virginia, he was one of the brightest young prospects in the country. As a freshman, he and future DC United teammate Ben Olsen lead Virginia to the 1997 ACC Tournament Championship, and the finals of the College Cup that year before being upset by UCLA. In his sophomore year at Virginia, Albright was a first-team All-American, scoring 20 goals in 23 matches. With his college success Albright earned Nike Project 40 status (the youth program that came before Generation Adidas), thanks to his offers from European clubs Chris was able to leverage a trade from lowly Miami Fusion to title contending DC United. Albright made only 8 appearances in his first season on a 1999 DC United team widely seen as one of the best in league history, winning both the Supporter's Shield and MLS Cup.
Impressed by the young Albright's potential, USMNT head coach Bruce Arena called him up to the national team for a friendly against Jamaica in Kingston. Arena was the first coach to utilize Chris as a defender, bringing him on as a late sub. Down a man thanks to Ante Razov and trailing 2-1 to the Reggae Boyz, Albright scored his only goal as a US international, salvaging a draw in the process. (Goal is at the 4 minute mark)
Albright would play 21 more times for the national team, and scored two goals for a US Olympic team that finished fourth in Sydney. After Frankie Hejduk tore his ACL shortly before the 2006 World Cup began, Bruce Arena called up Albright to take his place. Chris never played a game in Germany, and he made his last USMNT in 2007 for a pair of friendlies against Denmark and Mexico.
Albright was a flop as a forward during his three years at DC United, scoring only four goals. He was traded to the LA Galaxy in 2002, and despite missing nearly a half of the season due to injury, he managed to start eight games and feature prominently in the Galaxy eventual title run. He was part of the breakaway in the MLS Cup final that set up (fellow former Union player) Carlos Ruiz's title clinching goal, and in perhaps his most memorable moment as a professional, scored a goal from the half-line in a first round playoff game against Kansas City that completely caught goalkeeping legend Tony Meola off-guard. (Goal is at the 1:37:40 mark.)
Albright made the gradual shift to right back in 2004 that reignited his career. He earned MLS All-Star appearances each season between 2004 and 2006, and a Best XI honor in 2005. A torn hamstring injury cut his 2007 season short, and the Galaxy subsequently traded him to the Revolution the following season. He started 26 matches for New England in 2008, and scored the game-winning penalty kick in the North American Superliga Final.
Knee injuries hampered Albright for the rest of his career and took away much of the speed and strength he had in Los Angeles. Albright signed with the Union in February 2012 as a way to retire with his hometown club.
Albright joins the ranks of Walter Bahr, Bob Rigby, Chili Altemose, Peter Vermes, Bobby Convey, and Carli Lloyd as the great players who participated in youth soccer in the Delaware Valley. Jimmy McLaughlin, Zach Pfeffer and Jeff Parke also played in the Philly area, as well as Zarek Valentin, Corey Hertzog, and Greg Cochrane. The style of play is consistent among these professionals is consistent; tough, well-built players with a sustained work ethic. Even though the talent in North Jersey and New York is a lot more plentiful, there is plenty of gold to be found in the Delaware Valley. It's up to the Philadelphia Union academy to find the next Chris Albright.