Following this morning’s training, LA Galaxy left-back Todd Dunivant announced his planned retirement from professional soccer following the conclusion of the 2015 season. Over the past twelve years, the 34-year-old has made over 280 MLS appearances, logging almost 24,000 playing minutes. Though Dunivant also played for the San Jose Earthquakes, New York Red Bulls, and Toronto FC, the majority of his time in MLS was spent shoring up the back line of the LA Galaxy, where he served two stints (the first in 2005-06 and then again from 2009 to the present) and for which he made almost 200 appearances. Dunivant, a pillar of the league in more ways than one, leaves MLS with an absolute pirate’s booty of silverware to his name – Dunivant won five MLS Cups (2003, 2005, 2011, 2012, 2014), two Supporters Shields (2010, 2011) one Lamar Hunt Open Cup (2005) and was named to the MLS Best Eleven in 2011.
From the Centennial State to the Golden Coast
Todd Dunivant grew up in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, and graduated from Dakota Ridge High School in 1999, where he was both a star soccer player and scholar. Dunivant won the 1997 Colorado State High School Championship, was selected to the All-State Teams in 1997 and ‘98, was a member of the National Honor Society and valedictorian of his class.
“You put a lot of pressure on your defenders to be able to hold the fort when you go forward.”
Dunivant matriculated to Stanford University where he eventually graduated with a degree in Economics. He played in 81 games during his four years at Stanford, fourth-best in school history. During the 2002 season, Dunivant helped lead the Cardinals to a second straight trip to the College Cup and was an NSCAA first team All-American in 2002 and a Pac-10 All-American in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
“Dunni [Dunivant] has the skill and composure to be an international level player… He has made a remarkably smooth transition to the pros, though few who have seen him play over the last few years are surprised.”
—Bret Simon, Dunivant’s coach at Stanford, to Jessica Peters (May 15, 2003) “Stanford soccer grads starting to progress in MLS” The Stanford Daily
It was while Dunivant was at Stanford that he learned his brother, Luke (who also played soccer), had been diagnosed with acute leukemia and required a bone marrow transplant – Dunivant immediately volunteered and twice donated bone marrow to his brother. Luke recovered briefly and enjoyed a career as a high school teacher before passing away in early 2008 of complications from leukemia. Since that time, Dunivant has backed numerous fundraising campaigns for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (which accepts donations HERE).
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 14, 2015
From MLS Rookie to Veteran
“There are very few players who know what to do when they’re not marked. So sometimes you tell a player: that attacker is very good, but don’t mark him.”
Following graduation, Dunivant was selected sixth overall in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft by the San Jose Earthquakes. Dunivant started at left back for his entire rookie season but when Quakes coach Frank Yallop thought it best to have a veteran in the lineup for the playoffs Dunivant was forced to watch from the sidelines as his team won the MLS Cup that year. Two years later, when Dunivant snagged his second Cup (this time with the LA Galaxy) it was a different story – Dunivant was a constant presence along the LA Galaxy’s left flank and a major contributor to the team winning the Cup.
“We saw him play probably fifteen or 20 times at Stanford, so we knew what we were getting,…We looked at the draft and saw a bunch of midfielders and forwards who could’ve helped us, but we felt that the best overall soccer player was Todd.”
—Frank Yallop, on selecting Dunivant in the 2003 Superdraft, to Marc Connolly (August 23, 2003) “Dunivant: Rock Solid Rookie” ESPNFC.com
Though Dunivant occasionally came under criticism early on for being soft or unwilling to make hard tackles, he soon shed that label with his assured ball-handling and poise – very few left-backs in MLS proved as reliable under pressure as Dunivant. Indeed, when Dunivant was one of only three outfield players to play every minute of every regular-season game in 2005, colleagues took to calling him ‘Ironman.’ Over the years in MLS, Dunivant has been a model of consistency in a position in MLS that is notoriously tricky to fill.
“Nothing fazes him. He’s very calm and cool in situations. He has all the tools to go quite far in the game. It’s up to him now to grab hold of it because the sky’s the limit for Todd.”
—Frank Yallop, to Marc Connolly (August 23, 2003) “Dunivant: Rock Solid Rookie” ESPNFC.com
Dunivant defending Karim Benzema in ICC friendly and at the White House after winning the MLS Cup
Dunivant was capped twice for the U.S. Men’s National Team in early 2006, when his future coach Bruce Arena (who was then the National Team Coach) called in Dunivant for friendlies against Norway and Japan. Though Dunivant never became a mainstay with the national team, he must have impressed the coach since Dunivant was one of the first players Arena picked up (in a trade for allocation money from Toronto) when Arena was hired to assume the reins of a then troubled LA Galaxy franchise.
“People can easily pass him off as being another average player, but he’s not…,He’s a very, very good player who deserved this opportunity (with the national team). I think that kind of criticism of him is unfair because he rarely gets beaten.”
—Steve Sampson, former LA Galaxy Head Coach, (February 21, 2006) “Still Talking: Gaven-Dunivant deal still on the table” (BigAppleSoccer.com)
Exceedingly articulate and thoughtful for a professional athlete, Dunivant was ideal for Bruce Arena, who always stocks his teams with intelligent veterans he knows will act as good role models for younger players. Dunivant is patient with the media and a model player in the locker room, quick to share credit and praise his teammates. For example, following the LA Galaxy’s recent friendly with Barcelona, Dunivant discussed with reporters how he thought Steven Gerrard would bring the team the best elements from two of its legends, David Beckham and Landon Donovan:
“Stevie is so good at just being a menace in the midfield…He patrols the center of the park and sprays the ball from side to side, a similar quality to David Beckham. But he’s also really got the ability to counterattack and to go quickly, which is an ability of Landon [Donovan].”
—Todd Dunivant, to Joseph D’Hippolito (July 22, 2015) “Steven Gerrard and Giovani dos Santos Arrive Amid Season of Change for Galaxy” The New York Times
From the Locker Room to the Negotiations Table
When once asked to describe Dunivant, former president and GM of the LA Galaxy Doug Hamilton simply said, “He’s smart.” Indeed, Dunivant’s studied thoughtfulness proved critical after his peers elected him to represent them on the Executive Board for the MLS Player’s Union.
“Todd Dunivant is one of those individuals who doesn’t get a lot of credit and he just goes about his business in a very mature, methodical way, whether it be in training or in games… He’s just a quiet confident individual. He has the ability to defend well against different types of players, he has the ability to get forward. Tactically he’s still very intelligent, you rarely find him out of position.”
—Steve Sampson, to Ridge Mahoney (November 9, 2005) “Todd Dunivant: Ex-Quake finds postseason joy with L.A.”, Soccer America
Dunivant has served as a member of the MLSPU’s five-man Executive Board for many years and participated in both the 2010 and 2015 collective bargaining negotiations with league ownership. When the union’s negotiations deadlocked in February this year, mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services were retained and Dunivant flew to New York to participate in negotiations on behalf of the union.
Galaxy player rep Todd Dunivant says MLS CBA proposal "had nothing to do with free agency, not a mention." http://t.co/ZRkuSNAxgz
— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) January 22, 2015
During negotiations, Todd was one of the very few players who publicly addressed the union’s priorities and needs in order to avoid a strike or lockout.
— Todd Dunivant (@ToddDunivant) December 5, 2014
— MLS Players Union (@MLSPlayersUnion) January 24, 2015
The negotiations lasted until literally the last minute: with opening weekend (and the first game of two expansion franchises) appearing in peril, Dunivant and other team representatives stayed up day and night to continue the round-the-clock negotiations with the league.
I'm also told talks went to 6am this morning. #mlscba
— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) March 4, 2015
Ultimately, the union struck a deal with ownership at the last-minute, avoided a strike, and the 2015 season got underway without a hitch.
“At the end of it — and I can say this with absolute confidence — we got the absolute best deal we could have gotten on the table… At that point, that’s all you can ask. It might be a deal that you’re not happy with, that you might think we deserve more, that it’s not fair. None of that matters. It’s about getting the best deal possible, and that’s what our group did.”
—Todd Dunivant, to Jeff Carlisle (March 6, 2015) “How Major League Soccer owners and players agreed a CBA, avoided a strike”, ESPNFC.com
Dunivant, who had his first child last year with his wife, Caroline, did not announce at this morning’s training his future plans. However, as one of the few players who understands MLS’ arcane rules well enough to negotiate on behalf of its players about their amendment, Dunivant’s experience, leadership and education (an economics degree from one of the best universities in the world never hurts) certainly qualifies him for a role behind the scenes in MLS. After twelve decorated seasons in MLS, Dunivant bids adieu to his active playing career with the respect of his peers and the advancement of players’ rights in this league as part of his legacy.