As they join their respective nations’ teams during the international break, Fire defender Miguel Angel Navarro and midfielder Gaston Gimenez have the chance to make history both personally and for the club. Navarro can make his full international debut for Venezuela on Friday against Colombia, having previously played for the Venezuela U20 and U23 teams. Gimenez, who previously played just two minutes for Argentina in a November 2018 friendly, could make his debut for Paraguay against Peru on Thursday after filing a one-time change of association with FIFA earlier this year.
However, it is each player’s second World Cup qualifying match of this window that Fire fans will want to keep a particularly close eye on as Paraguay and Venezuela face off on Tuesday night. If Navarro and Gimenez find themselves on the pitch facing one another, it will be just the 7th time ever that two current Chicago Fire players have been opponents in international competition.
In honor of this potentially historic matchup, I thought I’d take a look back at the previous instances of fighting Fire with Fire on the international stage.
August 17th, 2004: United States vs Jamaica
CONCACAF 2006 World Cup Qualifying
1 -1 Draw
United States: Chris Armas
Jamaica: Andy Williams, Damani Ralph
It’s fitting that Chris Armas gets this list started, having spent longer than any Fire player as an active international. Armas made his USMNT debut following the Fire’s debut, MLS Cup-winning 1998 season and was still representing the Men in Red when he played his final international match in 2005 against Mexico. In this match, Armas played in his usual defensive-midfield role alongside Claudio Reyna behind a front three of Landon Donovan, Earnie Stewart and Brian McBride. It was Armas’ final appearance of 2004, not rejoining the team until the 2005 Gold Cup.
Andy Williams had a longer international career than Armas, but only spent two seasons in Chicago between stints with the MetroStars and Real Salt Lake. Williams played as one of two attacking midfielders in a 4-2-2-2, behind a strike partnership that included Fire teammate Damani Ralph. Ralph was drafted by the Fire in 2003 out of UConn and played 3 seasons in Chicago before joining Rubin Kazan in Russia. According to Transfermarkt, that transfer is the 4th most expensive departure in Fire history at an estimated $1.65 million. Ralph scored 24 goals in 57 appearances with the Fire and was an occasional Jamaica inclusion from 2003 to 2005.
Ian Goodson gave Jamaica the lead early in the 2nd Half, but the US rescued a point with an 88th minute equalizer from Brian Ching set up by Donovan. This is one of just two international matches to feature three Fire players, and the only in which all three were starters.
July 20th, 2005: United States vs Honduras
Gold Cup Semifinals
2 – 1, USA
United States: Chris Armas
Honduras: Ivan Guerrero
Honduran left-back Ivan Guerrero opened the scoring in the 30th minute of this semifinal match against his teammate Armas and the USMNT. Guerrero made a late run from midfield, wasn’t tracked, and in the end had an easy finish past Kasey Keller with a pass into the bottom corner. Chicago was Guerrero’s first stop in MLS, joining from Uruguayan giants Peñarol in 2005. He scored 5 goals in 80 games for the Fire over three seasons before moving on to San Jose, DC and Colorado. After a return to Honduras and brief retirement, Guerrero finished his career with Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL.
Chris Armas becomes the first of two players with multiple appearances on this list, playing this time in a midfield 3 with John O’Brien and Pablo Mastroeni. Armas played an important part in the buildup to O’Brien’s 86th minute equalizer, helping maintain possession after winning back possession on a counter-press. The USMNT then grabbed a stoppage-time winner from a Landon Donovan free kick to Oguchi Onyewu and advanced to the Gold Cup Final where they defeated Panama on penalties.
November 19th, 2008
2010 World Cup Qualifying
2 – 0 USA
United States: John Thorrington, Chris Rolfe (unused sub)
Guatemala: Marco Pappa (sub)
This was an interesting USMNT squad, missing the likes of Donovan, Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley. The game featured a striker pairing of Kenny Cooper (wearing the 9!) and a 19-year-old Jozy Altidore, Brad Guzan with hair, and current Chicago Fire left-back Jonathan Bornstein. It’s hard to say what the formation was and whether John Thorrington was playing as a right-back or right-wing-back. In any case, this was the only time in his four caps that he played the full 90 minutes, as the USMNT got an important 3 points on their journey to Thorrington’s native South Africa. He came through the Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen academies before jumping from Huddersfield to Grimsby and eventually landing in Chicago. He spent 5 seasons with the Fire before later playing for both Vancouver and DC. Chris Rolfe made sporadic appearances for the USMNT (10 in total) between 2005 and 2009, all while playing for the Fire after graduating from the University of Dayton.
Marco Pappa entered the game as a 57th minute replacement for Carlos Figueroa as a more attacking option on the wing. Pappa is the only true competition for Armas in terms of most successful Chicago Fire internationals. He spent four and a half seasons with the Fire early in his career before going on to the Eredivise with Heerenveen and then back to MLS with Seattle and Colorado before returning to Guatemala. To date he has made 57 appearances for Guatemala and is technically not yet retired at the age of still just 32. He played in every match of World Cup qualifying for the 2010, 2014 and 2018 World Cups until he missed the final CONCACAF group stage came in 2016.
The first US goal was a product of some great individual play by Altidore, who put a cross on the toe of Cooper. Freddy Adu (yep, this was during that era) added the second with a phenomenal, curling free kick.
March 2nd, 2010: El Salvador vs Guatemala
2 – 1, Guatemala
El Salvador: Julio Martinez
Guatemala: Marco Pappa
Another appearance for Marco Pappa, this one featuring a goal (his second international goal) to give Guatemala the lead just before halftime. Pappa played 84 minutes on the left wing, being replaced late-on by Abner Trigueros following a second goal for Guatemala that must have felt like the dagger. El Salvador did grab a late consolation, but it was too little too late.
Julio Martinez played all 90 minutes in midfield, which is almost as much time as he played in MLS with just 107 minutes across 3 games in the first half of the 2010 season before his loan from Leon to Chicago ended. He only ever played 7 times for Leon, all while the club was in the second tier, and primarily played in El Salvador. He scored his only Fire goal in his final game, a 2-2 draw against the Kansas City Wizards. He was subbed off at half time, and that was that.
July 1st, 2017: United States vs Ghana
2 – 1, USA
United States: Dax McCarty
Ghana: David Accam
Ah the good old days of 2017, back when we thought the USMNT were still going to qualify for the World Cup, and the Fire felt like MLS Cup contenders. Just before the start of the Gold Cup, Bruce Arena decided to try and get a look at players who might be able to supplement the USMNT’s qualification efforts. This was amidst Dom Dwyer’s national team cup of coffee (he scored in this game) and also featured the likes of Kelyn Rowe, Joe Corona and Kenny Saief. Dax McCarty, in his first season with the Fire, started in defensive midfield alongside Kellyn Acosta (multiple Kellyns with different spellings, what a time). McCarty played the full 90 minutes and went on to make 5 appearances at the Gold Cup. He only played once more for the US after that, a sub in a World Cup qualifying win over Panama (which preceded the Game Which Must Never Be Spoken About).
This was David Accam’s final game for Ghana, taking advantage of a friendly in the US. He got the start but was subbed off at halftime. 2017 was Accam’s best year for the Fire, scoring 14 and assisting 7 in 30 MLS games. He was traded to Philadelphia the following offseason for a total of $1.2 million in allocation money. He spent 2019 in Columbus before joining expansion side Nashville SC this season, but has never bettered his excellent form as the Fire made the playoffs that season.
Brad Guzan saved an Asamoah Gyan penalty, but the Ghanaian legend later scored on a fantastic free kick. Kellyn Acosta scored a free kick of his own for the decisive goal, on which Dax McCarty helped screen Richard Ofori in the Ghana net.
November 19th, 2018: Liechtenstein vs Armenia
UEFA Nations League, League D
2 – 2
Liechtenstein: Nicolas Hasler
Armenia: Yura Movsisyan
I love this game, and I love that this is how we finish this list. It is the perfect combination of Fire players you probably forgot about, tiny countries, a game almost certainly none of you watched, and just other fun details.
First, Nicolas Hasler, who played just 14 times for the Fire at a combination of right-back and right-mid, started this game at striker. Better yet, he scored! In the 47th minute, an Armenia center-back scuffed a back pass which was picked up by Hasler and passed into the bottom corner past a helpless goalkeeper. Hasler was traded to Sporting KC in early 2019, a move that helped result in a complete lack of natural fullbacks on the Fire roster. He played just 9 times for Sporting KC and now plays for FC Thun in the Swiss second-tier while remaining a frequent international for Liechtenstein.
As for the icing on the cake, we have an all-time forgettable Chicago Fire player: Yura Movsisyan. Movsisyan has quite the resume and is an under-appreciated American soccer success story. Born in Baku in modern Azerbaijan (then the USSR), he attended Pasadena City College and then signed for the KC Wizards and later Real Salt Lake. He got a move to Europe with Randers in Denmark, where 21 goals in 38 games earned him a move to Russian Premier League club Krasnodar. His success continued, scoring 23 goals in 51 and getting his big move: an $8.25 million move to Russian giants Spartak Moscow in 2013. He scored 27 goals in 66 appearances before returning to RSL on loan in 2016 and then permanently in 2017. The move made him, to this day, by far RSL’s most expensive signing at $3.3 million according to Transfermarkt. He scored 16 goals across the 2016 and 2017 seasons before going on loan in Sweden and never returning to the club. The Fire signed him as a free agent in September 2019 and let him go a couple months later.
Anyway, as far as this game, he played the full 90 minutes as Armenia found a late equalizer to earn a draw. Without a professional club since, this game was likely Movsisyan’s final for Armenia. What a career!
That is the history to which Gaston Gimenez and Miguel Angel Navarro can add next week. I should add that current Fire players have competed against one another internationally before: Djordje Mihailovic faced Francisco Calvo in a February 2019 friendly between the US and Costa Rica before Calvo’s trade from Minnesota to Chicago.
The Fire will certainly miss both Gimenez and Navarro, who will be required to quarantine for 10 days upon their return, but hopefully they can add a few lines to the history books while they’re gone.