With 15 seasons in the books, MLSsoccer.com looks back at the stars, personalities and cult heroes who made Major League Soccer what it is today. We continue our "What Ever Happened To..." series with 2006 MLS Best XI defender and former Wizards star José Burciaga Jr.
Where He Was Then
José Burciaga Jr. was a fan favorite in Kansas City, where his breakneck runs from left back and explosive left foot made him one of the most attack-minded left backs in the United States. Always determined to be a professional soccer player, the Dallas native signed a Project-40 contract with MLS straight out of high school in 2001 and overcame numerous injuries to enjoy a seven-year career in the league in which he made almost 130 starts and scored 14 goals.
WATCH: Burciaga Jr. highlights
Where He Is Now
Burciaga’s Wikipedia page says he’s retired. His name has long been absent from Major League Soccer discussions. The strange thing, though, is that he hasn’t stopped playing – and he’s certainly not retired.
In fact, Burciaga, one of the most dangerous attacking left backs in MLS history, is still only 29 years old and baffled as to why anyone would assume his career was over after the Colorado Rapids didn’t renew his contract following the 2008 season.
[inline_node:330249]“I never had a press release or said that I was done playing,” Burciaga told MLSsoccer.com.
“I don’t know where people got that false information. I want to set the record straight about this misconception of me being retired. That was never the case, which kind of hurt me.”
After leaving Colorado, Burciaga spent time in Mexico training and trailing with a variety of clubs looking for an opportunity that never fully materialized.
He trained with Atlas and had a two-week trial at Estudiantes Tecos, bouncing between clubs in the Primera División and the second-division Liga de Ascenso. But Burciaga never got the answers or offers he was looking for, eventually forcing him to drop his agent and come back home to the US to look for new opportunities.
He’s been training with new USL Pro side Orlando City SC (formerly the Austin Aztex), this preseason, hoping to find a place to jumpstart his career in the hopes of one day returning to MLS.
“I’ve been in Orlando for preseason,” he said, “but it looks like I’ll be going somewhere else. We just couldn’t come to terms on an agreement. I’m waiting to hear back on what’s next.”
Burciaga, who has found new representation to help guide his career, said he would prefer to stay in the United States with a team in the USL, NASL or MLS, but would also explore more opportunities south of the border this summer.
“I still think I can help a team, whether it’s just coming on off the bench or in any way,” he said. “I still believe that I can contribute, but it’s just a matter of getting that opportunity.”
When Burciaga got that opportunity in Kansas City early in his career, he didn’t fail to impress. Though he was forced to work his way back from two serious knee injuries during his first two full seasons in the league, he was able to rehab both and come back stronger than ever.
He made 110 starts for the Wizards during his career in Kansas City, good for 12th in team history, and made the league’s Best XI in 2006 when he scored eight goals and dished out eight assists to record one of the most prolific offensive seasons ever from a defender.
[inline_node:330250]But perhaps his best moment in a Wizards shirt was in 2004 when Burciaga and his teammates made a run to MLS Cup, where the left back scored on a rocket from 30 yards out, but Kansas City fell 3-2 to D.C. United.
“I can still taste it in my mouth when I think about it,” Burciaga said. “If certain things go different ways, we could have won it. But that’s the way the game is, and that day wasn’t our day. The 2004 team was one of the best teams I’ve been a part of.”
And despite his absence from MLS and the US soccer radar, Burciaga has never let his frustrations with his career interfere with his community involvement. He was MLS’ Humanitarian of the Year in 2008 and has grown his youth soccer club in Dallas into 20 teams with between 400 and 500 players hailing from his old neighborhood and similar backgrounds.
“When I’m done playing, youth is where I want to be,” Burciaga said. “Just helping kids reach their potential and reach their goals, whatever those may be. I think they can see that if I could do it, they can do it. It’s just a matter of getting those messages to them.”
What They Said
“Just a good guy, good teammate. He was a guy that was competitive every day in training and never liked to lose. The one moment that sticks out for me during his career in Kansas City was the 2004 final when he scored that bomb of a left-foot goal. That’s one thing that I’ll never forget. We definitely had some good times playing together.”
– Jack Jewsbury, teammate in Kansas City from 2003 to '07
<a href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/extratime"><img src="//kansascity-mp7static.mlsdev.net/mp6/extratime.jpg" alt="" width="620" height="100" /></a>