In a move that encapsulates an off-season of sweeping changes to the franchise, longtime Chicago Fire staple Gonzalo Segares officially retired Wednesday, bringing an end to a storied career that spanned a decade.
The Costa Rican left back made 231 appearances for Chicago, joining only seven others to pass the 200-game milestone for the Fire. He accomplished the increasingly difficult achievement of spending his entire MLS career in one city and earned the fans’ affection and support despite modest box score statistics of 11 goals and 13 assists for his career.
He also enjoyed a respectable national team career, making 19 appearances for Costa Rica between 2007 and 2011.
The man simply known as 'Sega' remained a steady presence in the Fire lineup, never letting the highs such as the U.S. Open Cup championship run in 2006 subdue his ambition or the lows of the recent playoff droughts sour his mood toward his teammates and supporters.
Segares was a product of Costa Rican side Saprissa as well Virginia Commonwealth University, from which he was drafted from by the Fire in 2005. Segares thanked those organizations as well as the fans in his retirement letter, a letter which exuded the same class he'd demonstrated throughout his career:
"To Section 8, Sector Latino, Costa Rica and all the fans that supported me throughout these years, I just want to say thank you, thank you, and thank you. You are the ones that made my career so special and the reason it is so hard to say goodbye. I will always keep all of you close to my heart."
Segares will indeed keep the Fire family close to his heart. At 32 years old, Segares surely had opportunities to continue his playing career at other clubs, even if it were overseas or in a lower league. But he expressed his loyalty once again by accepting a role with the Fire as a youth academy coach.
It is hard to imagine a more qualified Fire alum teaching the next generation as Segares has not only an understanding of the history and style of the club, but the physical ability at 32 years old to challenge youth players and push them to the next level.
The oft-criticized Fire owner Andrew Hauptman does not appear to be dropping the ball on handling Segares’ exit with the class and respect the player deserves. He thanked and praised Segares for his contributions in a statement and assured his continued role with the club.
There are also plans to honor Sega at a game during the season, according to Fire management.
It is not often supporters can watch a talent ply his trade for so long and it is not everyday such a club legend retires. So expect continued coverage this week of Segares’ retirement from the contributors at Hot Time in Old Town as we celebrate his career and reflect on the memories that will live on in club history.