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Will Armas stay or go?
by Ridge Mahoney, October 9th, 2007 7AM
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TAGS:  mls


Galaxy midfielder Cobi Jones isn't the only MLS original reconsidering his announcement to retire. Chris Armas, a former teammate of Jones in Los Angeles, has played the last 10 seasons with Chicago and might try to squeeze out one more. Maybe.

"The motivation level is still there," says Armas, who has been hobbled this season by a hip problem that has limited him to 23 games. "The motivation to win and to compete has gotten stronger as my career has gone on. It hasn't faded. You think, 'Isn't that supposed to go away?'"

Armas announced in April that this would be his last season, but that came before the arrival of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the hiring of Juan Carlos Osorio as head coach, and the purchase of the team by Andell Holdings, Inc. from Anschutz Entertainment Group.

He's reveling in the atmosphere created by large, excited crowds at Toyota Park and a late-season push for the playoffs. Chicago is unbeaten in its last six games and holds a four-point cushion over Colorado for the eighth and final postseason slot.

There are good, solid reasons to hang it up. He's 35, has played 262 regular season games, and has come back from two ACL surgeries - one of which knocked him off the 2002 World Cup team - and a sprained knee ligament that scuttled his dreams of playing in the 2000 Olympic Games. He and his wife Justine have two young sons, Christopher Jr. and Aleksei.

He won an MLS Cup in his first year with the Fire, that magical expansion season of 1998, and came up short in the 2000 and 2003 title games. Two months ago, a chance at another final seemed remote; now at least it's a possibility.

Yet the temptation of trophies won't lure him back. His zeal for the game hasn't wavered. His decision to retire, he insists, is strictly a function of physical health. He knows retirement is inevitable, he just hates the very idea of walking away while he can still walk.

"I don't like the thought of it, at all," he says of the dreaded R-word. "I almost wish I didn't love the game and everything about it so much, but I do. I was at the [USA-Brazil] game [Sept. 9 at Soldier Field] and on the day you're a fan. I'm rooting for the team and there are so many close ties to the team, still, and at the same time I wish I could be out there. Then you wouldn't feel so bad about walking away.

"I want to be able to play and contribute every day in practice and every day in the games, not just half you-know-what. This is what I've known for the past 12, 14 years, whatever it is, two years with the [Long Island] Rough Riders and then MLS. It's hard enough to walk away."

The decision won't be his alone. Fire management and Osorio will have a say. Justine and the boys will weigh in. So will his body.

"I know it sounds crazy but I even love the preseason and everything that goes with it," says Armas, who is one of the few players who can utter those words and really mean it. "I love the concept of the team and honestly, I love the preseason.

"I'll get my hip looked at after the season and if I can do it one more time and get back, believe me I'll do it."

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