The Chicago Fire officially received a significant bump in experience Tuesday as German World Cup veteran Arne Friedrich trained with his new teammates for the first time. A veteran of 82 caps for Die Mannschaft, Friedrich was open about his desire to come to Chicago from early on.
“I love America,” the Friedrich told Chicago-Fire.com Tuesday. “The last few years I’ve been here on vacation to different places. Chicago is one of the best cities in my eyes and that was the reason I wanted to come play for the Fire.”
Having played in two FIFA World Cups and two European championships for Germany, Friedrich’s accolades at the international level are plenty but he also brings nearly a decade of Bundesliga experience to the Fire. The defender made his way to the German topflight in 2002, joining Hertha Berlin from second division side Arminia Bielefeld.
The move helped Friedrich work his way into the German national team and put him on the path to becoming one of Hertha’s most consistent players. Named club captain in 2004, Friedrich would go on to appear in 231 matches and score 14 goals for the side before their relegation in 2010 prompted a move to stay in the topflight with VfL Wolfsburg.
Friedrich didn’t taste quite the same success with Die Wölfe as two slipped discs in his back in the span of just over a year limited him to just 15 appearances through 2011. Just over a month into the new Bundesliga campaign, Friedrich and the club amicably parted ways this past September, leaving many to question if his health is up to par for MLS play.
What many don’t know is that not long before his announcement as a Fire player, Friedrich had already been to Chicago to undergo thorough physicals to get a better picture of his health. The visit resulted in the club’s medical staff giving him a clean bill.
“The back is no problem,” Friedrich said. “I had a good physical test and medical check initially and everything was ok. I did another check on Monday and I haven’t had any problems.”
With his signing, Friedrich writes his name among Torsten Frings (Toronto), Lothar Matthaeus (MetroStars) and Frank Rost (New York Red Bulls) in the category of well-known Germans past and present to come to MLS. In fact it was the latter who helped convince him that a move to MLS might be desirable.
“I talked about it with Frank Rost. He told me about the strength of the league and thought it would be a good experience for me. When I came to Chicago for my physicals I got to meet the coaching staff and see the facilities and they treated me well. For me that was nice and I decided to sign here.”
It was also while he was here that the Fire utilized another former German-based player to help grease the wheels.
“I met Pavel [Pardo] and he said it’s a wonderful place to live and play. His words were important to me because he was obviously was a big part of Stuttgart’s championship side a few years ago. We’re both here because we want to be successful.”
Combined, the two veterans have played in four World Cups, five continental championships and hold 250 of the team’s 302 senior international caps. Much like Pardo, Friedrich sees it as part of his duties to be an example for young defenders Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry and Hunter Jumper.
“Helping younger players along is definitely one of my tasks. I want to help the club with my experience, I’ve obviously played 82 times for the national team and I hope I can help here both on and off the pitch.”
As for the immediate task at hand, Friedrich says has one focus.
“After the last two seasons, the team goal is to make the playoffs, right now that’s the most important thing. From there, we’ll see what happens for us.”