The once-fiery temperament may have cooled, and the training kit may have been replaced by a suit and tie, but Jeff Agoos remains a football man through and through. Currently employed as the Sporting Director at Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit the New York Red Bulls, a role he has held since January 2008, the former international is clearly adapting well to life since hanging up his boots.
Originally brought to New York as Technical Director in January 2007 by then Red Bulls' supremo Bruce Arena, the determination to succeed that made Agoos an iconic figure in the USA's domestic game remains fiercely intact. Though he enjoyed plenty of lows as well as highs in his long career, with unproductive spells in Germany and England offset by 134 national team caps and five MLS winners' medals, the former defender was unfailingly positive when speaking to FIFA.com.
"I've really been very fortunate. I've experienced so many great moments, more than I ever could have imagined when I was starting out," says Agoos, winner of the MLS Defender of the Year award in 2001. Chief among these experiences was the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, the then 34-year-old making three appearances before an injury against Poland ended his involvement. "Having been cut from the squad at the last minute in 1994 and spending the 1998 event on the bench, (in 2002) I finally played and made a contribution to the team's good showing."
Another fond memory is the Nelson Mandela Farewell Game in 1999. "To be among players like Jean-Pierre Papin, Dunga and Abedi Pele and to meet Mr Mandela was more than a great honour, it was exceptional." Even more so than his first MLS title success with DC United? "I'm not one to rank memories in order of importance. They're all special in their own way."
His championship win in 1996, with Arena as coach, was a landmark achievement, coming as it did in the MLS's inaugural season. ". Especially seeing as we had to fight back from being two goals down after 30 minutes," says Agoos. He won two further MLS championships, as well as the 1998 Inter-American Cup with the club from the capital, and has since been elected to the Black-and-Reds' Hall of Tradition, a "cherished honour of which I'm extremely proud".
Fast forward to 2001, a year when Agoos added another MLS title to his collection with San Jose Earthquakes, who he joined after leaving DC United for an unsuccessful loan spell with English side West Bromwich Albion. "The (San Jose) team had finished bottom of the league the season before, I was made captain and it needed an almighty amount of work and talent to get where we did," says Agoos , who later added another MLS crown with the Earthquakes, bringing his personal tally to a record five.
Agoos finally drew a line under his playing career in December 2005, after spending the best part of a decade in the MLS, but not before being voted into the league's All-Time Best XI. The left-sided defender was an MLS All-Star on no fewer than nine occasions, voted into the season's Best XI three times, and scored 11 goals and supplied 25 assists over the course of his 244 appearances. In the wake of a year's sabbatical, taken to spend time with his family and practice the guitar, one of his other consuming passions, Agoos returned to football via the front door.
There can only be one first time, and winning the first-ever edition was certainly memorable
"I totally wanted to stay in the sport, and Bruce Arena put his faith in me as his Technical Director," says Agoos. "I'm grateful to him for that," adds the former USA stalwart of his footballing mentor Arena. It was not the first time the ex-national team coach had come to Agoos' aid, having brought the player back to his roots at the University of Virginia as an assistant coach on his return from Germany in 1995 - the year before both switched to DC United.
With Arena now back in coaching after his recent appointment by the Los Angeles Galaxy, will the pair end up working together again in future? In football, as in life, only time will tell...
Facts and figures
Clubs: Maryland Bays (1991), Dallas Sidekicks 1991-92), Wehen Wiesbaden (1994-95), DC United (1996-2000), West Bromwhich Albion (2000), San Jose Earthquakes (2001-04), New York Metro Stars (2005)
National team: 134 appearances (1988-2003)
Honours: American Major League Soccer champion (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003)