Corey Gibbs ’01, the most decorated professional and international player in Brown soccer history, retired from his professional career last Monday, according to an announcement made by the Chicago Fire Major League Soccer club.
Gibbs ends an impressive 12-year career that saw him compete at the top levels in Europe and the MLS, earning 19 caps with the United States National Team along the way. As the U.S. team’s center back, Gibbs was selected as the club’s 2011 Defender of the Year.
Gibbs began his successful soccer career as a four-year standout at Brown. He helped lead the Bears to four consecutive Ivy League titles and NCAA tournament appearances. In his senior season, the team reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, and Gibbs was named Ivy League Player of the Year and School Athlete of the Year and also awarded First Team All-American.
“At Brown, I grew so much as a person and a player,” Gibbs said. “I loved it so much, and my teammates definitely helped to raise my level.”
It was not until his sophomore and junior years that Gibbs considered a professional soccer career. Gibbs said former Head Coach Michael Noonan, who led the Bears to 10 NCAA Tournaments and eight Ivy championships in his 15 years in the position, was the biggest influence in his decision to play professionally.
“He had a big say in helping me grow as a player mentally and physically,” Gibbs said. “He installed that mental focus in my years at Brown, and it stuck throughout my professional career.”
Gibbs was one of three Brown soccer players to be drafted in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft. He was selected in the fourth round by the Miami Fusion but decided instead to go abroad, where he signed with FC St. Pauli of the German Bundesliga. Gibbs appeared in 60 matches and scored four goals during his three years with the team.
“Starting off right away in Germany was my valuable starting point and was a huge success for me in developing the foundation to all the other countries and teams I ended up playing with,” Gibbs said.
After his stint in Europe, Gibbs returned to the United States and joined the Dallas Burn of MLS. He later went on to play for Feyenoord and ADO Den Haag in the Netherlands, in addition to MLS sides with the Colorado Rapids, New England Revolution and Chicago Fire.
One of Gibbs’ professional highlights was being selected for the American national team in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He suffered a knee injury in a tune-up match though, which forced him to miss the tournament.
Injuries are a part of any sport, and for Gibbs, they were something he battled throughout his career.
“I received a lot of support and a lot of faith and belief that I would come back,” Gibbs said. “The injuries I sustained were really difficult injuries to come over and it took a lot of … confidence in my abilities to know that I would be back each time.”
Coming into the 2012 season, Gibbs was ready to play two to three more years with the Chicago Fire. But his injuries cut his expectations short and ultimately led to a decision to retire from professional play.
“I wasn’t ready to give it up … but the injury was too much, and I had to start thinking about quality of my life, spending time with my wife, and I couldn’t let the injury strap me down anymore,” Gibbs said.
But he does not plan to leave the sport anytime soon.
“Coaching is a huge ambition of mine – something I want to pursue in my near future either at the collegiate or professional level,” Gibbs said.
He noted that in addition to coaching, he has ambitions to be a technical director or scout for an MLS team.
Gibbs cited persistence and challenging oneself as key to developing as a soccer player.
“Work hard at it and do what you do well first and foremost,” he said. “But don’t just rely on that … you need to develop your weaknesses and this will help to make you a great athlete.”