Zach's Back

Former Fire Goalkeeper discusses return to Chicago

Chivas USA goalkeeper
Zach Thornton made his career breakthrough with the Chicago Fire in 1998. The
25-year-old goalkeeper backstopped the first-year club to the American double
that year, winning both MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Edgewood,
MD native appeared in 273 matches across all competitions with the Fire from
1998-06.

I caught up with the
Fire legend following yesterday’s Chivas training session at Toyota Park.

How is it coming back
to Chicago? Do any emotions return when you’re here?

I love coming back. This was where I made a name for myself
and I have a lot of good memories with the people here.  It’s always good to come back to Chicago. I
owe a lot to this city and this team for seeing my worth and giving me the shot
to prove myself so I hold a special place in my heart for both.

Speaking of memories,
what are some of your best from your eight years as a Fire player?

Obviously winning MLS Cup in our first year was special and
definitely the four Open Cup championships. Our teams were always strong
especially in that first year when we won the championship. I have a lot of
good memories of friends I made here – I talk regularly with C.J. and it’s good
to see guys like Logan and Justin again as well.

Do you ever look back
and ask yourself if you’d been born a few years earlier or later, you might
have played more with the U.S. national team?

No not really. That’s all timing and we produced a ton of
good keepers during my generation, beyond guys like Friedel, Keller, Meola and
Hahnemann. I’m friends with a lot of those guys, I used to go to Blackburn in
the offseason and train with Brad while he was there. 

The U.S. produced keepers that probably could have played
for other countries but never got a sniff for our national team. That’s just the
way it goes. I was thankful to get the chance I had and it was always an honor
to represent the U.S. At the end of the day I play soccer for a living and I’m
thankful for that.

After leaving the
Fire you had a couple years that didn’t go so well, moving to Colorado and then
New York. Can you talk about that experience?

It was rough. There were a lot of people that didn’t believe
I could play at this level anymore – it was just a very trying time for me
personally.

Chivas USA took a chance and you repaid them last year,
going 12-9-6, earning 12 shutouts and a 0.87 goals against average, good enough
to take home both Goalkeeper of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year. Can
you talk about what last season meant for you?

It was great to come back and prove my ability again. Last
season was definitely a response to those that doubted me and said I was past
it. I’m also very grateful to Chivas USA for giving me a chance to prove myself
again. Along with Chicago they’re also a club that I owe a lot to.

 Thanks Zach!