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The Past and Present Chicago Fire Representation in Qatar

Quite a few players and coaches with Chicago connections are heading to the World Cup starting this week.

Switzerland v Czech Republic: UEFA Nations League - League Path Group 2 Photo by Vedran Galijas/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

The 2022 FIFA World Cup is just around the corner, and all 32 teams are now in Qatar as they prepare for the world’s biggest sporting event. While only one current Chicago Fire player, a number of CF97 alumni are headed to Doha. Let’s take a look at who they are.

Xherdan Shaqiri - Switzerland

The sole current Fire player going to the World Cup is Switzerland’s Xherdan Shaqiri. With over 100 caps, he is widely regarded as the Alpine nation’s greatest-ever player. The attacking midfielder will play a prominent role for the Swiss team and will look to build upon his impressive tournament resume. In 2014, Shaqiri scored a hat trick against Honduras in Manaus, becoming the first player to score a World Cup hat trick with only his left foot. In 2018, he again led Switzerland to the knockout rounds, scoring a stoppage-time winner against Serbia. Forming the sequel to their epic bout four years ago, Switzerland will meet Serbia again in Qatar; Brazil and Cameroon make up the rest of the group.

Sean Johnson - United States

18-year-old goalkeeper Gaga Slonina was many people’s pick to be the U.S.A.’s #3 goalkeeper in Qatar, but the man who took his place is a man who came a couple of years earlier in the Fire’s long line of goalkeepers. Sean Johnson, who spent seven seasons with the Fire before being traded, is the second oldest player on the USMNT’s roster, and this will be his first World Cup. Though it is unlikely that Johnson will see the field, he should bring some much-needed experience and good vibes to a young, fresh locker room. Johnson’s trip to Qatar serves as a well-deserved cherry on top of what has been a hugely successful MLS career.

Tim Ream - United States

The other player on the USMNT roster with a Chicago Fire connection is one of the surprise inclusions in the squad, the 35-year-old center-back Tim Ream. Ream has been out of the national team picture for the last fourteen months but was recalled for the tournament due to his good form for Fulham and a lack of depth in that position. Ream never actually played for the Fire’s first team — he played with the Fire U-23s for two seasons in USL — and was eventually picked up by the New York Red Bulls in 2010 before moving abroad. With the U.S.’ woes at center back showing no signs of stopping, it would be disappointing if Ream didn’t see the field.

Francisco Calvo - Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s central defender spent a turbulent two and a half seasons in Chicago before leaving the club at the end of 2021. Now, he is heading to his second World Cup with Los Ticos, and will have to be at the top of his game if his team is to emerge from a very difficult group with Spain, Germany, and Japan. Calvo is in great form with his new club in Turkey, Konyaspor, and if he can translate that form to his national team, they may have a fighting chance of putting up some impressive results.

Przemysław Frankowski - Poland

Frankowski was one of Poland’s breakout stars of Euro 2020 two summers ago, a tournament which earned him a €2.3 million transfer to Ligue Un side RC Lens. Since arriving in France, he has been balling out and has been one of the best players for a Lens team sitting comfortably in second place in the league behind only PSG. Frankowski has reinvented himself as a wingback for club and country and will likely start for Poland as they face off against Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Argentina.

Honorable mentions

Brian McBride - United States

One of the greatest American players ever, Brian McBride is now the general manager of the USMNT. McBride, a native of Arlington Heights, spent the final years of his career with the Fire and is now going to Qatar in an off-field role. McBride was influential in the recruitment of several dual-nationals, such as Sergiño Dest and Yunus Musah who will be key starters for the team in the World Cup.

Aron Hyde - United States

From 2009-2015, Hyde worked as a goalkeeping coach for the Chicago Fire, and worked with Sean Johnson during his time in the Windy City. Now, he is part of Gregg Berhalter’s coaching staff for the World Cup, and will be the goalkeeping coach for the USMNT in Qatar. While with the Fire, Hyde was also the Director of the Academy Goalkeeping Program at a time when Gaga Slonina was still in the Fire’s youth system.

Daniel Schmidt - Japan

Schmidt is a player with absolutely no connection to the Fire, but he is the only player going to the World Cup that was born in Illinois, so he is worth a mention. Schmidt is one of two U.S.-born players representing foreign national teams at the World Cup (alongside Canada’s Brooklyn-born striker Jonathan David), and he will likely be Japan’s #2 goalkeeper. It’s unclear where in the state he was born, but what is known is that Schmidt moved to Japan at the age of 2, and thus there was never a chance for him to play soccer in the States.

International Friendly”Japan v United States of America” Photo by ANP via Getty Images