Freedman_jonah
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  • 06:24 PM ET  10.20
The Cobi Jones love-a-thon continues. One of the most recognizable and influential players in the history of American soccer will hang ‘em at the conclusion of this season, playoffs or not. We gave the 37-year-old winger our thanks by letting him run last week’s World Power Rankings, and on Thursday night, the Los Angeles Galaxy honored their veteran star before his last regular-season home game.

But with L.A. making a late push for the playoffs, Jones may be looking at the ultimate sendoff. Could a third MLS Cup title for the Galaxy and its dreadlocked icon (with David Beckham on board) be in the cards? We’ll know more at the conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s season-finale showdown with the Fire -- also fighting for their playoff lives -- in Chicago (3 p.m. ET, TeleFutura). For now, Cobi reflected on his career with me, SI Players-style.

On the tribute the Galaxy gave him this week.
It was great. They did a very good job of putting that together. It definitely struck a chord with me. They gave me a winter ski vacation anywhere in the world. I’m not sure where I’ll go yet but I’m going to do some research -- I definitely want to get out of the States.

On one of the sweetest moments of his career.
Beating our archrival, Mexico, 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup was the pinnacle of my national-team career. The moment I’ll remember most is when Rafael Márquez took out his aggression on me [In the 88th minute, with the game out of reach, the Mexican captain plowed into Jones with a deliberate high kick and a head-butt]. He knew what the outcome was going to be and he decided to take it out on anybody who was around him. We were the better team that day and he knew it.

On how much MLS has evolved since the inaugural 1996 season.
When we first came out, people weren’t even sure if it was going to last a year or two. Now we’re at a point where soccer-specific stadiums are being built everywhere and cities are competing against each other to get into MLS. The league is strong and stable and only growing bigger and better.

On the foothold soccer has taken in Los Angeles.
When I think back to the inaugural season, I think of how no one thought soccer would survive in Los Angeles. Then in that debut game against New York, we had 70,000 at the Rose Bowl. In those first few games, we were filling the place. It was a great time for us players to see that fans in L.A. were dedicated to the sport and were willing to support it. It shocked a lot of people.

On three MLS originals -- himself, Eddie Pope and Chris Armas -- calling it quits.

With all of us retiring, it’s the end of an era. Now it’s time for others to step up and take over, to become the new names of both MLS and U.S. Soccer. It was a good era with a lot of quality players. It’s sad, but it’s a happy time for all three of us.

On the dream finale, the Galaxy making the playoffs and an unlikely run to the MLS Cup.

That would be the ultimate sendoff. That’s the dream that any retiring player wishes for.

His next move.
I’m leaving my doors open. I’ll look at any opportunity that comes my way. I’ll take some time off first. Broadcasting is definitely a possibility. But first comes that ski trip!
 

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