WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Jan. 14, 2009 – Ezra Hendrickson, who starred for the inaugural Des Moines Menace team in 1994, has retired after 12 seasons of Major League Soccer.
After playing nearly 300 games in the league, Hendrickson closes his career as a three-time MLS Cup champion and a reputation as one of the sport’s “good guys,” as Soccer America’s Ridge Mahoney writes in this column. Hendrickson’s final season ended as a member of the 2008 MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew – a team that also featured 2005 Menace goalkeeper Andy Grunebaum.
The former Drake standout also played on championship teams with the 2002 Los Angeles Galaxy and the 2004 D.C. United. He played in 266 regular-season games, scoring 23 goals – 17 of those coming as a member of the Galaxy, from 1998-2002. He notched five more goals in 32 playoff contests.
A native of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hendrickson also spent time with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars (1997), Dallas Burn (2003) and Chivas USA (2005-2006).
Hendrickson played for Drake from 1990-1993 and was a third-team all-American as a senior.
He scored a team-best 13 goals for the 1994 Menace of the Premier League. He tallied the franchise’s first assist, on a goal scored by Kevin Graving in a 2-1 season-opening loss to the Sioux City Breeze.
Asked about the goal, Graving said, “I remember he beat a fullback to the right. He got around the defender and ripped a nice, hard shot. The ball went off the goalie’s hands and he didn’t cover it up. Ezra did the dirty work, and I put it away. I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Graving recalled the fun, festive atmosphere of the first Menace game, which was played at Dowling High School. The graduate of Grand View College still lives in the area, working as an account executive for Brainstorm Marketing and volunteering as a board member for Soccer West Soccer Club. He said that Hendrickson was popular among his teammates.
“He’s just a great guy – a leader on and off the field. Ezra was always easy to get along with,” Graving said. “He’s a rock-solid player who had a nice, long career.”
Hendrickson, who turns 37 on Friday, is one of 12 former Menace players who have seen MLS action.
Danny Cruz, a 2008 Menace player from UNLV, looks to become the team’s 13th former player to make the MLS ranks. Cruz, who last week signed a pro contract with Generation adidas, is participating in the league’s combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He awaits his fate in tomorrow’s MLS SuperDraft. Some analysts predict that Cruz will go be a top-10 selection.