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- DOB August 13, 1984
- Age 30
- Place of birth Modesto, California
- POSITION Defender
- HEIGHT 5'10"
- WEIGHT 175
- U.S. CAPS 35
- CLUB Orlando City SC
- TWITTER @heathgpearce (30.5K followers)
- ASN QUESTIONNAIRE Read now
Despite a reputation as a bit of an eccentric and a hothead, Heath Pearce has matured into a leader. Case in point: Just a month after being traded from Chivas USA to the New York Red Bulls, he was given the captain’s armband for a match against D.C. United in June 2012. Injuries, admittedly, played into this temporary role, but Hans Backe could have picked anyone to lead the team. He selected Pearce. "I was surprised by that," he said to BigAppleSoccer.com in June 2012. "Anytime you get a chance to do that and represent your team as a true leader is an honor and I was excited to be able to do that."
Five years ago Pearce would have been a long shot to wear the armband. Early in his career, the outspoken player clashed with coaches on both his club and country squads. These days he has settled in as a trustworthy veteran, making the most of his defensive skills and a flair for attack.
Pearce spent time in Bradenton in 2000 and 2001, figuring for the American U-17s and, later, the U-20s. After a stellar career at the University of Portland, he jumped at the chance to move to Europe, leaving the United States in 2005 for the Danish hinterlands where he spent a three-year stint with Nordsjælland. Pearce made 75 appearances for his club and also debuted with the American side during that time but missed out on the 2006 World Cup roster. A lack of playing time at Hansa Rostock—where he clashed with the coach—diminished his time on the U.S. squad and eventually led him back to the U.S. and FC Dallas. ("Germany was a struggle," Pearce told Goal.com after the move to MLS. "It wasn't so much on the field, it wasn't so much off the field; it's just a mixture of the life and everything that went with it.")
His game improved with more playing time, but Bob Bradley did not pick Pearce as part of the 23-man roster for South Africa. Still, Pearce continued fighting, playing wherever the FC Dallas staff asked him to fill in. He joined Chivas USA before the 2011 season, then was traded to New York for Juan Agudelo in May 2012. (Fun fact: Pearce got an assist on Red Bulls teammate Kenny Cooper's first national team goal.)
It's hard to see Pearce, who took part in the January 2012 national team camp, finding a role as a regular starter again. But he can play in the middle or on the left, so he'll continue to pick up spot duty as needed and could evolve into a leader on the B squad.—NOAH DAVIS
Klinsmann on Pearce:
"This is a very important opportunity for these players. They are the next in line behind the established players, and this is a chance to prove themselves. We will spend the next few weeks introducing them to our ideas on how we want to play and what it means to be a part of the National Team. Ultimately, it will create more depth for us, which you need at this level. I'm very curious and excited to see this group." (December 2011)
Noteworthy ReadsJanuary Camp Journals: Heath Pearce (USsoccer.com)
Heath Pearce: "I Need to Be Playing" (Goal.com)
Heath Pearce Is Just What New York Needs (ProSoccerTalk)