JT finds a home in Chicago

Midfielder honed craft in Europe before settling in MLS with Fire

No not that JT, the Fire's own version, John Thorrington.


The U.S. international falls into a special category when it comes to
the American player. Joining the likes of Landon Donovan, Jovan Kirovski
and John O'Brien, Thorrington became one of the few American youths to
skip college, opting to jump into the professional game overseas during
the 90's.


A product of Palos Verdes, CA, via Johannesburg, South Africa,
Thorrington found his way to English giants Manchester United in 1997,
after being scouted locally and spending three weeks on trial with the
club between his junior and senior years of high school. Upon signing at
Old Trafford, Thorrington became the youngest American to join a team
in the English Premier League.


"The way things work out sometimes is interesting," said Thorrington
from Houston. "My coach in California had a contact in England who came
to watch me play and soon after I was there in England. They offered me a
youth contract and with my parents blessing I moved when I was
17-years-old."


Though he never saw a first team match with the Red Devils, training in
the shadows of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham at the club's
Carrington training ground helped propel Thorrington to the 1999 U.S.
Men's World Youth Championship team in Nigeria, leading the U.S. to a
1-0 upset of England in the group stage and helping the team to the
Round of 16. Thorrington appeared in all four tournament matches, making
enough of an impression on German side Bayer Leverkusen for them to
offer him a contract, where he would eventually be joined by another
aforementioned player in the form of Landon Donovan.


"Leverkusen made me an offer both playing wise and monetarily that I
felt was worth grabbing. Landon [Donovan] signed with the team not too
long after I did and we played in the youth and reserve sides together
our first few years. We spent a lot of time together outside of football
and I think I was able to relate to his situation. It was a long time
ago now but we still talk and I have fond memories of that time in my
career."


Unfortunately a string of injuries and bad luck saw Thorrington fail to
make his mark in Germany. Feeling stalled and harboring a desire to get
first team games, Thorrington returned to England with Huddersfield Town
of the English First Division towards the end of the 2000-01 season,
though the club was relegated before he was eligible to play.


"At the time I felt getting first team matches was the most important
thing for my career and I was ready to go somewhere that I could play."


In June of that year, Thorrington received a call-up from U.S. National
Team coach Bruce Arena for a friendly match against Ecuador in Columbus,
OH.


"That was definitely a highlight in my career. It was only a friendly
and I think I only played about 20 minutes but it's an honor to play for
your country and to play with some of the best players the U.S. has
produced."


Spurred by his first national team cap, Thorrington took the experience
back with him to England, where he finally made his club debut with
Huddersfield, eventually appearing in 33 matches, scoring seven goals in
his first two seasons with the Terriers before the injury bug stuck
again.


Seeing the field only six times during his final season in England,
spent between Huddersfield and a loan sting with Grimsby Town, the
midfielder set a new course for himself.


"I took a lot away from my time in Europe but injuries had started to
take their toll a bit and I saw tough times both on and off the field. I
decided with my family that I was best suited to come home and though a
few other MLS clubs showed interest, Chicago seemed the best fit for
me."


Joining the Fire in 2005, Thorrington's first three years in the Windy
City followed a similar pattern of injury, suffering from a broken leg
and hamstring issues, Thorrington played a total of 10 matches over his
first two seasons with the club. He was waived in early 2007, though the
Fire picked him up back from waivers in September of that year. This
time around Thorrington stayed healthy, playing in 23 matches the
following year, the most of any season in his career.


With a cleaner bill of health than he'd had since his youth, Thorrington
appeared in 42 matches over the last two seasons, becoming a fixture in
the Fire midfield and earning three more caps with the United States
national team, including appearances in two World Cup qualifiers during
2008.


"I've had injury issues throughout my career and you need to be healthy
to contribute to a team. The thing I've learned is that the tough times
make the good ones that much sweeter. I've made mistakes and have had a
few bitter experiences over the years but I wouldn't change any of it
now. I'm happy where I'm at and have realized things happen for a
reason. The last two years have been some of the most enjoyable and I'm
looking to repay the longtime faith the organization has shown in me."


Under the new leadership of head coach Carlos de los Cobos,
Thorrington's goals reflect those of the club.


"Specifically in Chicago, the attitude has always been to win every
competition we participate in -- you see that with the team's success
above others in the U.S. Open Cup. The new philosophy with Carlos has
seen a larger emphasis made on attractive soccer. Winning is important,
but doing it attractively is also a priority and that's the big thing
he's brought so far. In that way, his style meshes with mine. Any
coaching change is a process, but things have gone very well with him so
far."


In the last match of the club's preseason tour, the Fire take on the
Houston Dynamo Thursday night at 7:00 pm at the Carl Lewis Track &
Field Complex in Houston, TX. The Fire return to Chicago this weekend to
continue preparations for 2010 First Kick when they travel to the new
Red Bull Arena, to take on New York on March 27.