The long wait from being selected by in last month’s MLS Re-Entry process to finally becoming part of the Chicago Fire finally came to an end for Kheli Dube Wednesday as the team announced it had come to terms with the veteran MLS striker.
“Signing is a great feeling,” Dube told Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday afternoon. “I’m doing a job that I love most and being part of a team again is one of the greatest feelings ever. I was home in Zimbabwe during most of the offseason not knowing whether or not I was going to sign and that takes a lot out of you but ever since I came to the team for the first day of preseason though, I’ve felt right at home.”
Selected by the Fire in Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, Dube joins the Men in Red after four seasons with club rivals New England Revolution where he tallied 14 goals and nine assists in 72 appearances since 2008. The feeling of signing is made greater when you consider the former Zimbabwe youth international saw his final season in New England cut short following a May car accident, leaving him with whiplash.
Returning to Gilette Stadium the day after a match at San Jose, Dube was hit on the driver’s side of his car as he came out of the parking lot.
“I was out for months. It was a terrible time for me. I was very limited in what I could do, just watching TV and doing light things. It took a lot out of me. In terms of recovery, with things like that you can’t rush and it took a while to get back.”
Dube was out for over four months, making his return to the field in the Revolution’s 3-2 loss to the Fire on September 25 at Toyota Park, finishing his injury shortened season with a career low five appearances.
“I’m good now. I feel like I’m making a fresh start and ready to go for the season.”
Past with Rivals
The Revolution aren’t the only instance in Dube’s career where he played for a rival of the Chicago Fire. Before signing with MLS, Dube was part of the USL Premier Development League’s Michigan Bucks side that won the 2006 USL North American Championship, helping to get the team back to league title game the following year.
Giving full disclosure, this writer has the privilege of working with Dube during his final PDL season with the Detroit-based side. One of my best memories from my time there was a screaming half volley from 30 yards out that the new Fire signee scored against his future club. The 57th minute goal stood as the first in a 3-0 victory over the Fire Premier in the Great Lakes Division final played July 28, 2007.
“I remember that goal well. It has always stuck in my mind.” said Dube. “We were rivals back then but I don’t really think like that anymore. As soon as you become a professional you know with the day-to-day business in MLS you can wake up in the morning and be on a different team. Wherever you play, you never know, you might end up in a team you’ve played against. You have to be a professional about it and move on.”
Dube became the third former Revolution player to sign with the Fire the past two seasons, joining former New England teammates Cory Gibbs and Michael Videira when he put pen to paper Wednesday.
“Having them here has helped a lot. Cory and I were roommates with New England so when I found out I was coming here, I knew I was going to a good place because I’ve been tight with him for a while. I played with Mike a lot as well and he helps a lot on the field. He’s the kind of guy that knows what I can bring to the team. He knows the best parts of my game.”
Style and Goals for 2012
In Wednesday’s release announcing Dube’s signing, Fire head coach Frank Klopas was quoted as saying,
“Kheli has been an offensive threat since he came into the league. He’s a gritty, hard working forward that plays for the badge. Since joining us in preseason Kheli has shown his desire to be part of our club.”
Dube is the type of player a manager doesn’t have to worry about receiving 100 percent effort from. He combines flair with a high fitness level and with his play, showcases the type of attitude that puts the team ahead of personal achievement. It’s one that fits in very well with the mentality of the club and its supporters.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love scoring goals. At the same time, making goals for others is probably what I do best. In a team, you need to have 11 guys playing together. As much as I can do – I can score, I can assist, but if the team’s not winning it doesn’t really matter. For me, the team always comes first, everything else is secondary.”
While he enters a team that has, like the Revolution, similarly missed the postseason the past two years, Dube sees optimism with his new situation, having been part of a New England side that lost five of its final six games in 2011.
“Not making the playoffs frustrates the hell out of me. Coming from a team that finished poorly to one that played well at the end of the season, it gave me hope and makes me want to come in and work harder to help this team go to the playoffs and to the final. That’s our goal. From the first day I came here you could see everyone works hard. If you’re a team that has a work ethic like that at the end of the day, you reap what you sow.
“I feel like if you work hard right now you can make it far in this league.”
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire.