Imagine you’ve been named sporting director of the Chicago Fire in a new MLS five-a-side league. All players who’ve ever played for the club are eligible for selection. Who do you take? How would you line up?
Since we’re all starving for soccer at this point, Hot Time figured we’d give you our lineups, and then ask you to submit yours in the comments.
A couple rules:
- You have to take a goalkeeper
- All players are in the prime of their Fire careers, not the prime of their total careers (in other words, you’d be getting Fire Bastian Schweinsteiger, not 7-1 over Brazil Bastian Schweinsteiger)
Zach Thornton - He’s the best keeper in club history by a wide margin. He usurped the great Mexican keeper Jorge Campos in training camp in 1998 and never looked back. With 272 club appearances and 269 starts during the Fire’s first eight years, Thornton was on the field for every trophy the club has won. He’s a household name in Chicago Fire history, and he should be in the club’s Ring of Fire.
CJ Brown - In a field of names such as Gonzalo Segares, Carlos Bocanegra, and Lubos Kubik, it was a tough choice to pick a defender for this team, but in the end, it was always going to be CJ. for 12 years he faithfully patrolled the central defense and his 372 appearances in all competitions is a club record. He was a great passer and no forward wanted a piece of him, and he managed to score five goals which was impressive in a time period before attacking defenders were a thing.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco - Without question, and with apologies to Piotr Nowak, he’s the second greatest player to put on a Fire shirt (more on this later). He dazzled and thrilled the Fire faithful, and most importantly, he finally got the club past the New England Revolution in the playoffs. He was the best playmaker I’ve ever seen, and he helped get Chris Rolfe to Europe, which was nice of him.
Ante Razov and Hristo Stoichkov - Remember when I called Blanco the second-best player to ever wear the Fire shirt? That’s because the best player to ever lace up the boots in Fire red is Hristo Stoichkov. The 1994 Ballon d’Or winner came to the Fire for only three seasons from 2000-2002, but he scored 24 goals in 70 appearances and was an inspiration to little Ruben on the playground. All that being said, nobody was better for the Fire than Ante Razov. He scored 76 goals in 155 MLS appearances, and 95 goals in all competitions, putting on the shirt 196 times. He’s the club’s leading goal scorer and was the best player in big games. He had the magic touch, and there is no one I’d rather have leading the line in a full game, or in a five-a-side.
Sean Johnson - To be fair, I completely agree with Ruben that Zach Thornton is the best goalkeeper in Fire history. But, five-a-side is quick, and I really like Johnson’s shot stopping ability here.
Bastian Schweinsteiger - Sure, he’s one of the greatest midfielders of all time, but he played a good chunk of his Fire career in central defense. He’s incredibly smart, and one of the most efficient players I’ve ever watched. Basti never wasted movements, which is key in five-a-side. Plus, he’s a leader, he’s calm, and he can get things sorted out when they go south. Der Fußballgott is my defender, but I know I can count on him to play wherever else we need him.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco - For the sake of debate, I tried to go with a completely different team than Ruben. But how could I not take Blanco? He was ultra creative in tight spaces, and an absolute warrior on the field. As a USMNT supporter, I absolutely hated Blanco when he came to the team. By the end of his Fire career, I loved him. It was definitely a Dennis Rodman-to-the-Bulls situation, for me. My only fear is if these two teams played one another, the two Blancos would kill each other.
DaMarcus Beasley - I know there’s going to be a lot of debate about this one, and I probably should have taken Nowak here, but I don’t care. Along with Landon Donovan, DaMarcus broke through in the 2002 World Cup. By the time he left the Fire for PSV in 2004, he was an absolute star. Beasley was quick, smart, and like Basti, he can play pretty much any other position on the field if we need to change our shape. (Fun fact: Beasley went on loan from PSV to lowly Premier League side Manchester City in 2007. Things were different back then.)
Frank Klopas - Sure, I could make a very strong case for Razov, or Stoichkov. The 2013 version of Mike Magee or the 2017 version of Nemanja Nikolic would both be incredible adds, as well. But, I’m going with Frankie. As a player, he was only with the Fire for a two years after a long career with the Chicago Sting, a couple Greek teams, the Kansas City Wizards and the USMNT, but he was still a deadly goal scorer. And you know what? He’s a great guy, too.
Who makes your team?
We left off a lot of huge names: Nemanja Nikolic, Mike Magee, Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride, Josh Wolff, Piotr Nowak, Dax McCarty, Chris Armas, and Jesse Marsch. What did we get right? What did we get wrong? Share your team in the comments!