Chicago Fire original CJ Brown played in his last professional soccer game on October 23, 2010. Both Brown and teammate Brian McBride had announced their retirements days earlier. Chicago was already eliminated from the playoffs going into the game. Prior to kick-off the players knew it was going to be only the second time in the club's history that the Fire did not make the playoffs.
The Chicago Fire defeated Chivas USA 4-1 in a game where the scoreline was reminiscent of an earlier time when the Fire usually dominated their competition. CJ Brown would have felt it best. He played with the Fire in the club's very first year in 1998 and continued to start in the back line for the next 13 years. Between 1998-2010, only the Los Angeles Galaxy had more points in the MLS Regular Season than the Fire (607 to 600). Other teams like Kansas City, New England, and New York had less regular season points than Chicago in this time span even if you threw in their points from their collective 1996 and 1997 seasons to be charitable. Brown was a key part of this regular season dominance that extended to four U.S. Open Cup titles (1998, 2000, 2003, 2006), a Supporters' Shield (2003), and a MLS Cup trophy (1998).
When I heard that the legendary Fire defender was forming an academy named CJ Brown FC, I assumed the club was going to win a lot of games. Turns out that's not the point of why CJ Brown is doing this. More on this and why you should take a look at the newest Chicago soccer training option for early teens and those younger after the break.
"The goal of CJ Brown FC is not to win", Brown said in a recent interview with Hot Time In Old Town. "Too many academies determine their success based on winning". This might be a hard approach for some parents to handle. Brown readily admits this. Focusing on winning and losing can have many downsides according to Brown.
"We might win a game 3-0 but that doesn't mean we don't need to work on defense," he said. "Defense might be what we need to work on most."
Young players who have been overlooked for their lack of size or speed stand the most to benefit from the training but there are lessons for all players. "We want to put the small kid with great touch out there," said Brown. "Other clubs focus on the fastest kids and the biggest kids." Brown emphasized having not just a training environment but also a game environment where players are not afraid of making mistakes.
Since retiring from playing professional soccer, the Oregon native has been hired by Real Salt Lake to be an assistant coach. Brown attend San Jose State University and played his first years of pro soccer for the San Francisco Bay Seals. However, he has no desire to move back to the West Coast or make a permanent home in Salt Lake City. He has lived in Berkeley, IL with his wife and two children for several years now and he plans on keeping it that way. In fact, the Berkeley Park District will be playing a part in CJ Brown FC. The realities of his job with RSL will keep him away from the academy more than he would like.
Former Chicago Fire midfielder and Lisle, IL native Brian Plotkin is going to be the coaching director. Plotkin will handle the day-to-day teaching with players. Brown regrets that he can't be with the players more but will be back whenever he gets the chance. He already has some ideas in the works for when Real Salt Lake visits Toyota Park to take on the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, May 9. "It's so important for young players to watch the game."
Watching soccer to learn more about the game is a big part of Brown's philosophy. He considers it so vital to the point that C.J. Brown FC will never play on Chicago Fire gamedays.
"It's important that young players know who players like Logan Pause are. Some of the most important things I learned about soccer came from watching the game." Brown talked about driving an hour or two to play in a match or even just to catch a game on TV when he was younger. "If you truly want something, you will find a way to make it happen."
Young players and their parents who are interested in making their dreams happen from the vision of CJ Brown FC can attend the registration on Saturday, February 25 at Lind Park, 1200 Lind Avenue, Berkeley, IL anytime between 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Players will enjoy 2 trainings and 1 game per week. The registration cost for the spring is $325 with additional uniform cost. CJ Brown FC will run all year-round for groups U14, U12, U10, and U8. Those interested can contact Peter Graham at 708-668-5693 or Kim Brown at 312-735-0872 for more information. CJ Brown FC has a Facebook page that is taking inquiries and suggestions as well.
CJ Brown FC is a non-profit organization. Even if you don't have children looking to play soccer, there are several opportunities for individuals and businesses to get involved as volunteers, sponsors, and partners of the club. A new chapter in Chicago soccer is beginning and all are invited to partake. The next chapter of CJ Brown's legacy in Chicago soccer begins.