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Chicago Fire sign German center back Rafael Czichos

The former FC Köln player joins on a deal through 2024

1. FC Köln v VfB Stuttgart - Bundesliga
Rafael Czichos
Photo by Ralf Treese/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Finding a left-footed center back was a top priority this off-season for the Chicago Fire, and it appears the club has found its man. Raphael Czichos joins the Fire after spending the last four seasons at FC Köln, in both the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga.

The 31-year-old’s deal runs through the 2024 season. He’s a TAM signing, and will occupy an international roster slot.

Fire sources expect Czichos to anchor the back line, and mentor the team’s younger defenders. For the Fire to win, Czichios will need to be a steadying force for the defense. The often times-chaotic play of his predecessor, Francisco Calvo, caused problems for the team over the last few seasons.

To find Calvo’s replacement, the Fire looked at starting level players from the top five leagues in Europe, before settling on Czichos. Sources believe he’s a solid fit for new head coach Ezra Hendrickson’s system.

“Working closely with Ezra and the staff, we identified Rafael as a player who will fit our style of play and bring more quality and leadership to our roster,” Fire sporting director Georg Heitz said in a statement. “We’re thrilled that he has agreed to join the Fire and look forward to welcoming him to Chicago.”

Czichos made 111 appearances for Köln across all competitions in Germany’s first and second divisions. During the last three seasons, Czichos tallied 74 starts in the German Bundesliga, including every match of the current 2021-22 season.

Prior to Köln, Czichos spent three seasons with Holstein Kiel, where he made 104 appearances and served as team captain. Along with former Fire goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm, Czichos was part of the Holstein Kiel team that earned promotion to the 2. Bundesliga for the first time since 1981.

Czichos was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and moved to Germany at a young age. He’s fluent in both English and German.