Fire hopes that Arne Friedrich will stick around
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media November 1, 2012 9:10PM
Arne Friedrich (left) has indicated he wants to stay with the Fire, but he also has said he might retire. | Getty Images
Updated: December 3, 2012 6:50AM
By all accounts of the team, a big reason the Fire was able to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 was that the organization retained most of its core players last offseason.
In previous years, the Fire found itself adjusting to vastly new personnel.
So after a 2-1 loss Wednesday to the Houston Dynamo that knocked the Fire out of the playoffs, the challenge before its front office is to ensure it can again keep the core intact.
“The reason why we’ve not been in this spot [the playoffs], which means not getting in the playoffs, is the fact that there’s been a lot of turnover after the year,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “There’s been a lot of guys that leave and they bring in new guys and we start rebuilding again.”
Priority one: re-signing center back Arne Friedrich.
After Wednesday’s loss, the German international said he would like to stay in Chicago but also floated the possibility of retirement.
His return would be vital to back line that started rookie Austin Berry and second-year right back Jalil Anibaba. Friedrich played a major role in organizing a back line that was the anchor of one of the stingiest defenses in MLS.
Regardless of whether Friedrich returns, the Fire anticipates it will have to deal with some change, since players have numerous lucrative opportunities in other countries.
“It is hard, and these guys become your family more than just playing and wearing the jersey together,” captain and midfielder Logan Pause said.
“It’s part of the business that we’re in. It’s not always easy. Every year there will be changes, like it or not.”
At times, the Fire looked as good as any in MLS and technically was very sound. What hampered the team throughout the season, and particularly over the final month and into the playoffs, was a tendency to give up the first goal.
“We couldn’t keep giving up the first goal and expecting us to be able to come back and get an equalizer and even a game-winner,” Pause said. “That was a little bit of our Achilles heel.”