Return of the Wolff

Former Fire star reflects on time in Chicago

How have things gone for you in Kansas City this year?

Our team’s been doing alright. We started out well and we’ve
had a big influx of new players and a new system. More recently we’ve kind of
hit a bit of a lull - scoring goals has been tough the last month. We have some
obvious areas where we need to improve and I think that’s common among most
teams right now unless you’re Los Angeles.

 If we reestablish our basics and
foundation I think we’ll get back to winning. We’ve played some good soccer at
times and other times we’ve made mistakes that cost us. It’s a good group
though and we’ve got some good quality in the team. We’ve played our best at
home so it’s good to be at Community America this week against Chicago. As far
as results, there’s no doubt -- we have to get points.

Having spent five seasons here, are games against Chicago a little bit
different?

Games there are a little different. For me I have great
memories of Chicago. I’ve said it a number of times – I think it’s one of the
best cities that we go to. We obviously started out in the city at Soldier
Field where we had great fans and huge support from everybody.

You look at the team now and the fortunate part is that they
have their own stadium, the unfortunate part is that you’ve lost some of the
fan base being outside the city. The fans in Chicago are very passionate, very
soccer-smart and do well to support their team.

Whether it was in 1998 or today there’s still a big
following there and it’s something to be proud of. Coming into the league, I
was very proud to play for Chicago and be a part of some championship winning
teams – it’s a huge part of why I’ve had some of the success I’ve experienced
in soccer and helped to make me the player I’ve I am today – for that I’m quite
grateful.

What is your best memory of your time in Chicago?

It’s a long time ago but sadly its the first year when we
won a couple championships as an expansion team. I came into the league as a
20-year-old and I wasn’t sure when I started how it was all going to go. For me
it was about trying to be in the group and contributing as a rookie. As the
season went on I think it became more and more special for every player because
we were getting contributions from everyone.

It was certainly an emotional ride – one that kicked off my
professionally career in a way that I never imagined. I think the one downside
was that it was the only MLS Cup championship we won – that was a team that
probably should have won more.

Looking at my five seasons there, I truly enjoyed my time in Chicago and I look
forward to going back every season. 
I think C.J.’s the only player left with the Fire that I played with and
I still speak with him once and a while. I have good friendships with him, Zach
[Thornton], Chris Armas and Jesse [Marsch] and a lot of good memories as well.

Is there one goal that you scored in a Fire uniform that is most
memorable?

No not really. There were probably some that were more
important than others. Obviously your first goal is memorable.

I was fortunate to be on a team that had very good players. When
you have [Peter] Nowak, Ante [Razov], Chris Armas, Lubos Kubik -- its just a
different game. You’re a forward and obviously you know your role but having
support from guys like that – guys that can pull off plays so you can focus on
those things you’re good at. More than anything I think that’s why I was able
to contribute with so many goals, but I can’t think of one that sticks out.

I guess when it’s all over I’ll have to roll out the footage
and check them all out.

Could you talk a bit about your memories of Section 8 while you were
here?

They were amazing. I just remember how loud and passionate
they were, creating an atmosphere that players love to play in front of. I
remember Peter Wilt hanging out in that group and jumping over the fences into
the section after scoring goals.

That’s what it’s about when you have that passion from the
city, you have the Latino fans, the European, the Polish, the American fans -- such
an eclectic crowd that made for a unique atmosphere. I have a lot of respect
for those guys – they provide a great base for the club and they make it that
much more enjoyable on the field. 

I’m sure it’s grown over years but yeah, I have much appreciation and respect
for all of them.

What are your thoughts on the preliminary 30-man U.S. roster that Bob
Bradley released this week?

It’s an interesting roster. I think up front we’re extremely
thin and that’s obviously our biggest concern. To be honest I was a little
surprised to not see Conor [Casey] in that group. Over the last 18 months he’s
probably been the most reliable, consistent striker in MLS and he obviously
went out with the national team and got some good results as well, so to me
that’s obviously disappointing. There are other guys there that have done well
but I don’t think they’re as deserving as Conor.

Defensively we’re very solid – we’re a good counter
attacking team. I think Bob has a good first 15 or 16 guys and after that
there’s a noticeable difference in experience and quality. I still think we
should do well and expect us to get out of the group. That should be the
expectation of every fan and media outlet. Anything less than that I think is
disappointing.  That’s where we are
with the game in this country.

We got a favorable draw but there won’t be any easy games
and we still have to get results to get out of our group. At that point, like
we saw in 2002, anything can happen.