Arne Friedrich’s future with Fire still in doubt
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media October 20, 2012 12:07AM
Arne Friedrich (23) and Daniel Paladini of the Fire strip Thierry Henry of the Red Bulls during their match Oct. 6. | Jeff Zelevansky~Getty Images
Fire at Revolution
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Updated: October 20, 2012 1:09AM
Fire center back Arne Friedrich said that there isn’t a city in the United States he loves more than Chicago.
But the German’s ultimate goal is to end up in Washington. Not in RFK Stadium with the United, but in the Rose Garden with the president.
Any other accolades, such as MLS Defender of the Year or Newcomer of the Year, are not part of Friedrich’s focus. At this point in the 33-year-old’s career, he’s all about winning.
“It would mean something if we go to the White House, if we win the title,” Friedrich said. “This would be my big goal.
“Something like that [individual awards] doesn’t mean anything because I know what I can do, I know how I play and I know my skills. But it doesn’t mean anything because in the end it’s the team that has to be successful and not the individual.”
But the success of the playoff-bound Fire, which visits the New England Revolution on Saturday, has been largely a credit to Friedrich.
He came to the Fire in the offseason after a bitter divorce from German Budesliga side Wolfsburg. He asked the club to tear up his contract amid speculation that a back injury, which kept Friedrich out about six months, might threaten to end his career.
His decision to come to the United States effectively ended close to a 10-year run on the German national team, a span that saw Friedrich start in several major tournaments.
Nonetheless, this season Friedrich has proved that his career is far from over. He anchors one of MLS’ stingiest defenses and is one of the best individual defenders in the league.
“I didn’t need to prove myself, but I always have a big claim every day I play soccer,” Friedrich said. “If I wouldn’t have this kind of attitude, then I should get retired because it doesn’t make any sense and I would like to give my best every day. I would like to improve the team with my experience and my skills, and I am very happy to be here.”
Friedrich signed a one-year deal with the Fire. He has made comments indicating he would like to return for a second season, but he also has intimated that he’s tempted to return to Germany, having proved his back injury hasn’t altered his play.
After the training session Wednesday, he acknowledged that he has had talks with the Fire about returning, but the financials aren’t his only concern. The extended time away from his family and girlfriend has been hard for him.
“He is the best defender in the league,” Fire coach Frank Klopas said. “So that’s my opinion. I think other coaches will support their guys, but for me I think he’s clearly showed that.
“Obviously, I would love to have the player back, and I think that Arne has expressed his desire to stay here and continue playing in the MLS.”