The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced Saturday that midfielder Pavel Pardo has retired from professional soccer. He represented Mexico twice in the World Cup and is in fact the second-most capped player in Mexican National Team history. Pardo played club soccer for 19 years at the top levels in Mexico, Germany and the United States.
The team's press release included a rare quote from Fire owner Andrew Hauptman.
"It has been a truly great experience to have had Pavel Pardo represent the Fire on-and-off-the-field," said Fire owner Andrew Hauptman. "Pavel's character, leadership and integrity as an individual rival his passion, ability and skill on the field. Our club is honored to have been a part of Pavel's 19-year professional career. Pavel will forever remain a member of the Fire family."
Fire owner Hauptman doesn't usually comment on player moves but this is no ordinary player. Pardo's arrival to the team in July of 2011 represented the beginning of Chicago's resurgence in the league. The Fire went from being a somewhat of doormat between 2010 and June 2011 to being one of the top teams in MLS thereafter. The Mexican international had a great deal of assistance in Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas righting the ship, the team's new players starting to gel, and the arrival of Sebastian Grazzini but I give Pardo much credit for bringing a different attitude to the club. Pardo was the hardest playing individual in the 2011 U.S. Open Cup Final vs. Seattle despite being the oldest. That final also means that Pardo played in a domestic cup final for the Chicago Fire; something Brian McBride, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and a couple of other big name Fire players can't say.
Hauptman often talks about the success of soccer clubs depending on the relationships and associations you build over time. It does mean something when the Chicago Fire shirt has been worn by international greats like Blanco, McBride, Pardo, Hristo Stoitchkov, Carlos Bocanegra, and Arne Friedrich to name most of the noteworthy. How much did the presence of Bundesliga veteran Pavel Pardo help bring over Friedrich in the first place? When players are looking at joining the Fire, they will ask around to hear how former Fire players enjoyed their time with the club. You can not buy the long lasting effect of Stoitchov praising the team and looking forward to celebrating the Chicago Fire's 20th Anniversary in 2017. Here's to Pardo taking the field in that year's friendly game with the other Fire greats.
Chicago fans might have to wait that long before they see Pardo again. As Chicago Fire Confidential's Guillermo Rivera reported, the former Fire midfielder turned down a position to work in Chicago's organization. Probably for the best. I can't imagine it will be long before top clubs start offering the veteran leader a crack at being a head coach.
In terms of on-the-field repercussions for 2013, there's no chance Chicago will end up with a repeat of Brian McBride in 2010. Many including myself think the American forward should have retired after the 2009 season and yet he was one of the highest paid players on the team in 2010. Guillermo Rivera noted that Pardo was looking at taking a salary cut for 2013. I'm sure salary cap issues played a part in that but I wonder if Klopas learned from McBride's situation and offered less for that reason.
As discussed in yesterday's article on international slots, Pardo's departure means the team has one more international slot to work with. The timing of the acquisitions of Joel Lindpere and Jeff Larentowicz along with the rather sudden rumors of Pardo's retirement could signal a larger move is on the horizon. I wouldn't necessarily say get your hopes up. Occam's razor suggests a 36 year-old soccer player who finished the previous season slightly injured decided to hang up the boots for good. It all just happened so quickly and Pardo's return for 2013 was a given not long ago. The team will miss the on-the-field connections Pardo made with the other returning players. More on that later. For now, the best wishes to Pavel Pardo on his retirement and a hearty congratulations on a great career.