Mike Grella retired at the age of 32. (Photo courtesy of MLS)
By Michael Lewis
HARRISON, N.J. — The Cosmos offered Mike Grella a contract to play this season, but the former Red Bulls midfielder turned what would be the closest thing to his hometown team down.
Instead, Grella decided to call it a career at the age of 32.
Grella has called Glen Cove, N.Y. home for years. The Cosmos train and will play at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y.
“The Cosmos were interested,” Grella said after the Red Bulls’ 4-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at Red Bull Arena Saturday night. “I just decided that it was time for me to move on. It was not so much the deal that they offered me or anything like that.
“The Cosmos is a great club. I would be very proud to be a part of that organization in some shape or form. It was time for me to move on. I was not enjoying playing anymore because I had too many complications. I was hindered a lot at the time. The last two years were difficult health-wise.”
Grella, who inducted into the Long Island Soccer Football League Hall of Fame in November, tried to overcome knee injuries that had persisted for the past several years.
“It was impossible to get over,” said Grella, who participated in the pregame ceremonies in which the team was lauded for winning its third Supporters Shield in six years in 2018. “There was just too much going on so I just decided it was not worth it any more.”
He has not decided what the next step in his life
“I’m not sure yet,” Grella said. “I don’t want to jump into anything too quickly. I want to get sorted with the family and make a more clear decision in the future.”
Grella made his name with Forest Park in the LISFL before attending Duke University. He played two seasons for the Long Island Rough Riders before traveling to England to pursue a career and then returning to the states to perform with the Red Bulls.
During his prime, Grella was one of the leading left-sided midfielders, forming one of the most impressive attacking midfields in Major League Soccer history with the Red Bulls. Grella (nine goals, seven assists) was on the left, Sacha Kljestan (eight goals, 14 assists) in the center, with Lloyd Sam (10 goals, seven assists) on the right. That game out to be an average of nine goals and nine assists per player (Kljestan is now with Orlando City SC, Sam with Miami FC, which will meet the Cosmos in the Founders Cup this summer).
For Columbus Crew SC last season, Grella performed in 12 games and 480 minutes, starting only five matches. He recorded a goal and an assist.
The Cosmos will play in the National Premier Soccer League from April through July and then in the NPSL Founders Cup from August through November.