Late last week, FC Dallas fullback, Atiba Harris, announced his retirement from international soccer giving his full attention to club play for the remainder of his career. While he expressed it was time to “hand over the torch”, in many ways, Harris is caught at a crossroads of his career where the combination of his age and his contract situation (he’s out of one) may have forced his hand to pick club over his beloved St. Kitts & Nevis.
Wrong Side of Thirty
I’m not particularly fond of the phrase, but it is what it is. Atiba Harris is now 31 and possibly has 3-6 years left to his professional soccer career, if he’s fortunate. In his 11 year career in MLS, he’s bounced around six different clubs and has made a second appearance here in Dallas. At no point during this time span, has he played with a particular club for longer than two seasons.
If you’re reading between the lines, you’ll know that it’s very probable that Harris’ next contract could very well be his last one. As a husband and a father, you’ll want your last pay day to count as much as it can.
Experience and Salary
Despite bouncing around the league, Harris is now a serviceable player who can play multiple positions - thanks in part to Oscar Pareja’s insistence of converting Harris into a full time fullback in 2015. Harris has started as a striker, moved out to the wings and can now occupy either side of the defensive line. He’s not world beater, but in MLS, you can’t have too many guys like him on your roster.
His experience, of course, does demand a higher price in terms of salary, where Harris pulled in $143,000 for the year. For comparison sake, former FCD and converted fullback, Je-Vaughn Watson made $115,837.33 last season. His salary isn’t exorbetent when you remember he’s an 11 year veteran with 246 appearances, 29 goals and 26 assists to his name. The challenge though is that his position can be had for half the cost for someone 7 years younger and, here’s possibly what forced his decision, isn’t going to miss any games to international duty.
I don’t mean that literally, Harris’ conversion is complete and I don’t expect him to play in another position on the field other than fullback, unless it’s an emergency. There’s a good chance Harris will re-sign with Dallas for 2017 and possibly more. Pareja trusts him and he’s put in two years to teach an old dog a new trick. Why not invest a couple more years to reap the rewards now that’s he’s just about to master it to the best of his abilities?
When you factor everything into it (age, position, salary and international duty = absences from the club), it’s a hard sell to get a good contract. And out of all those factors, there was really only one thing was negotiable.
I could be wrong on all of these things. But when you look at how indispensable Harris was to St. Kitts and Nevis, you do have to wonder if these factors played a part or not.