COLUMBUS, Ohio – Duncan Oughton’s heart was still into playing, despite the Crew releasing him in November after 10 years with the club. However, his head — and especially his damaged right knee — told him otherwise.
That’s why the gritty midfielder from New Zealand announced his retirement Thursday to take a newly formed role as assistant to Crew technical director Brian Bliss.
“It’s a still-evolving position, but I’ll be a little of this and a little of that, getting my feet wet in different departments,” Oughton said. “There’ll be some fan relations, team relations, working a little with the media and doing some things with the academy and Crew Juniors.”
Oughton, 33, was the longest-serving Crew player in club history since being plucked out of Cal State Fullerton with the 10th overall pick of the 2001 MLS SuperDraft.
He is the only Crew player to have been a part of all five major titles in team history – the 2008 MLS Cup, the 2002 US Open Cup and Supporters’ Shields in 2004, ’08 and ’09.
“I want to thank my parents and family for the opportunities they created for me as well all the fans in Columbus who made it a special 10 years with the Crew organization,” he said.
[inline_node:320027]Oughton played in 136 regular-season games, though only saw the field in league play three times in 2010. However, he made numerous appearances in the Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League.
That he lasted so long is medical miracle.
Oughton suffered a serious knee injury in the last game of the 2004 season and didn’t play again for nearly two years. He then became one of the first athletes to return from a procedure in which his cartilage was grown in a lab and re-implanted in his knee.
“It’s obviously been a battle for the past six years,” Oughton said. “There were some nights you go to sleep with some pain and wake up with more pain than you went to bed with, and you have to get through the next day’s training or a game.
“For my future, [retirement] was a smart option and I didn’t want to hate the sport,” he added. “It was time to move on. I’m happy with the decision.”
The Crew will take advantage of Oughton being one of the club’s most popular players.
“Duncan Oughton’s emotional attachment to the Crew will continue to be just as valuable to the organization off the field as it was to us on the field,” Crew president and general manager Mark McCullers said.
Oughton looks forward to expanding the Crew brand.
“I want people to feel the same passion I feel for the team,” he said. “The way we can show that it is to get as many people as we can in the stands. The community has a great opportunity to see a professional sports team who has done very well.”