Plagued by lingering injuries over the past couple of seasons, veteran German centerback Arne Friedrich announced his retirement from soccer Sunday in a statement released on his website.
"After much consideration and consultation with my doctors and physical therapists I have decided to finish my professional soccer career," Friedrich wrote on his website. "The last couple of weeks and month I have been suffering from increasing back pain. With two herniated discs in my lower back, I am no longer able to fulfill the demands of a professional soccer player."
The club confirmed Friedrich's retirement late Sunday morning. In a statement, Fire President of Soccer Operations Javier Leon praised Friedrich's contributions to the club.
"The experience and leadership that he brought to our team was invaluable," the statement said. "He was an integral part of or squad as we returned to the playoffs in 2012 and we wish him the best with his future endeavors."
Friedrich made his name in the Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin, whom he played for from 2002-2010. He was capped by Germany 82 times and was a veteran of two World Cups and two Euros. He made his professional debut in 2000 with Arminia Bielefeld.
Friedrich joined the Chicago Fire as a free agent on March 7, 2012, after being released from his contract with VFL Wolfsburg in 2011 due to a plaguing back injury. He made 23 appearances for the Men in Red, anchoring a backline that conceded just 41 goals, and earned the club's Defender of the Year honors in the 2012 MLS season.
Friedrich did not make any competitive appearances in 2013 for the Fire due to injury.
With a base salary of $300,000 (guaranteed $367,500), Friedrich's decision to retire -- and request to terminate his contract with the Fire -- opens up cap room and an additional roster spot as the team heads towards the summer transfer widow.
"I wish the 'Fire' and their fantastic fans all the best," Friedrich's statement said. "My time in Chicago was awesome, I made new friends and will consider Chicago to be a second home. But now the time has come to take care of my body and start a new chapter in my life.
"I would like to thank all my fans, teammates, coaches, trainers, staff members and assistants who have attended to and helped me over the last 12 years. I am very thankful for all the great experiences I was able to make."
According to the club's statement, Friedrich is expected to return to Chicago later this summer to be honored at Toyota Park, depending on his treatment.