The re-acquisition of Chicago Fire striker Chris Rolfe on Monday was welcome news for most fans. You can hardly go wrong when you return a popular player to the place where he experienced the most success and the Fire have seen a number of cases similar to Rolfe’s return through the years.
Rolfe coming back to Toyota Park is far from being the first instance of a Fire player returning to the club. In the second of this three-part series, I look back on players that have served more than one stint in the Windy City.
John Wolyniec –Wolyniec was originally picked by the MetroStars in 1999 before the Fire re-drafted him in 2000. The Staten Island, NY product appeared in 18 matches and tallied two goals in his first stint with the Fire from before being traded to New England for Eric Wynalda early in 2001.
After bouncing around between the Revolution and the A-League’s Rochester Rhinos and Milwaukee Rampage, Wolyniec was re-called to the Fire for two games in 2002, scoring the only Fire goal in a 3-1 loss to Dallas on June 15.
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Zach Thornton – Having become the Fire’s starting goalkeeper midway through the team’s inaugural double-winning campaign in 1998, Zach Thornton was a mainstay in the Fire net, only missing 10 of a possible 148 regular season matches from 1999-03.
Following a season in which the Fire tasted MLS Supporter’s Shield and U.S. Open Cup glory, Thornton signed a six-month contract with Portuguese giants Benfica in January 2004. After not figuring into the squad, he returned to the Fire in September 2004 but sat in reserve of Henry Ring the rest of the season.
“Big Z” earned the starting spot back the next year, appearing in 51 more matches over the next two years and helping the Fire to the 2006 U.S. Open Cup title. Thornton, along with Chris Armas and C.J. Brown are the only three players to be part of all six of the club’s domestic titles.
Andy Herron – Having signed with the Fire from Costa Rican side Herediano towards the end of the 2004 season, Herron impressed early on, tallying four goals in as many matches to close out the year. Herron would go on to appear in 40 matches the next two seasons in Chicago, winning the club’s Budweiser Golden Boot award in 2006 (nine goals) along with scoring the game winner in a 3-1 U.S. Open Cup final victory over the LA Galaxy.
Despite having his best season in Chicago in 2006, Herron was traded to Columbus in January the next year in exchange for forward Ryan Coiner and the Crew’s first round (second overall) selection in the 2007 (which ended up being Bakary Soumare. After little success in Columbus, Herron re-signed with the Fire at the start of the 2008 season but playing almost exclusively in a substitute role, didn’t experience the same success he had before, tallying just two goals in 18 competitive matches before he and the club parted ways following the season.
While his final season in Chicago didn’t live up to his first three, Herron does hold the club’s scoring record in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, with his two strikes in the June 10, 2008 3-2 qualifying win vs. Columbus giving him eight, one ahead of Josh Wolff.