The long flowing hair, the yellow shoes, the gritty tackles. Bratislav, you will be missed.
What was solid rumor yesterday is official team news today as the Chicago Fire released Bratislav Ristic to open an international spot for new signing Pavel Pardo. Ristic was signed on September 14, 2010 after a long trial period with the team. He went on to make 8 starts in 2010 playing at RB, LB, RM, and even a little bit at CDM and LM. The highlight of his 2010 and probably his Fire career was on October 8 when he had a kick save in the 90th minute to maintain Chicago's clean sheet and 2-0 victory over the Columbus Crew. The effort made him one of the few non-goalies to be nominated for MLS Save of the Week. Going into 2011, things looked pretty good for Ristic who was praised for his hard work and positive attitude. More on Ristic and how he finished his time with the Fire after the break.
The 31 year-old Serbian did in fact start the March 19th season opener against FC Dallas only to be subbed off in the 42nd minute of play. Ristic would not appear in a game again until he made back to back late substitute appearances in the May 7th and May 14th games against the Canadian teams. The May 21st game against Philadelphia kicked off a curious stretch of games where Ristic returned to his starting ways by making the XI four times in a row at RB. Regular RB Jalil Anibaba was never reported as injured and those four games straddled the end of head coach Carlos de los Cobos and the beginning of interim head coach Frank Klopas. Read into that what you will. There's lots of different ways to go with that. Ristic's last two regular season appearances were back to back late substitutions in the two previous regular season games the Fire played. He saved a goal in 2010 and he might have done that in 2011 too when he successfully took the ball in the box from Omar Bravo with a risky tackle. Sporting KC fans cried to high heaven for a penalty kick at the opening of Livestrong Sporting Park but to no avail.
The spot of utility winger will likely go to the recently healthy Mike Banner with Pari Pantazopoulos acting as a dark horse. You might laugh but Ristic put in a lot of playing time across venues. He also has made the bench for every MLS Regular Season gameday 18 going back to the Seattle game on April 9th. Someone is itching to have that role and Ristic served it well. Bratislav Ristic ends his Chicago Fire tenure with 17 appearances and 13 starts in MLS Regular Season play, 5 appearances and 5 starts in Reserves League play, 2 appearances and 1 start in the U.S. Open Cup and the one he might remember the best, 1 appearance against Manchester United in exhibition play. We thank him for the memories and wish him the best in his future endeavors.