I've long been a fan of A.J. Soares. Although he wasn't the flashiest player, he always seemed to get the job done. In fact, his contributions to the New England Revolution might have been overlooked considering the team has had defensive issues since his departure in 2014.
Off the field, Soares had a warm personality. He made us laugh with the Soares Report and was always cordial during post-game interviews. I remember speaking to him after he won the team's Defender of the Year and Players' Player Awards. The California native expressed nothing but gratitude, saying "It means a lot.I love those guys. For them to give me that award, I really appreciate it."
With this in mind, it shouldn't come as a surprise that I was a bit bummed to see that Soares will be retiring. While the 27-year-old's playing career is now over, we still have the memories, and believe me there are plenty. Here are five of my favorites:
5. Soares scores in his debut for AGF Aarhus
When Soares left the Revolution, I was fascinated about where he'd pop up next. His rumored deal with Hellas Verona fell through, which led to him landing in Norway with Viking FK. Here, he became a fan favorite.
In 2016, Soares was on the move again. There were a whispers that Soares might return to MLS, but the center back ultimately signed with AGF Aarhus of Denmark. Soares didn't take long to make an impact, as he scored in his debut. It was a left-footed shot that always had eyes for the back of the net.
4. Soares scores a beauty against the Crew
It seems a bit odd to start this list with two goals since Soares was a defender. Although most of Soares' highlights happened in the defensive third, the former California Golden Bear was always a threat on set pieces. Such was the case when the Revs faced the Crew on July 24, 2014.
In the buildup to the goal, Soares made a dangerous run into the six yard box just as Kelyn Rowe hit his corner kick. From an acute angle, Soares forced the ball past Steve Clark, giving the Revs a 2-0 lead. It was a header to behold.
3. Soares wins the Players' Player Award
It's always good to receive an award, but winning one that was voted on by your peers brings a different level of satisfaction.
In 2014, Soares won the inaugural Player's Player Award, which was given to him by his partner Jose Goncalves. The award was as a reminder that Soares was a well-respected teammate that served as the team's glue.
Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth summed Soares up when he said, "You can’t say enough good things about A.J. His communication, he’s been unreal for us the entire season and he deserves every accolade that he’s going to get this year."
2. The Soares Report
Soares was a natural in front of the camera, a skill he showcased during his rookie season when he introduced us to the Soares Report. The concept was simple: Soares would interview (or perhaps terrorize) his teammates. The end result was priceless.
1. Soares throws Jaime Penedo to the ground during the MLS Cup
Soares did what we've always wanted to do to a player faking an injury, and for that, we thank him.
GIF: Revs player helps up injured goalte- oh, wait…never mind. pic.twitter.com/Juql3sw0RT— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 7, 2014