BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- With veteran German defender Arne Friedrich sidelined since the first week of the 2013 campaign, the news of his retirement Sunday morning was hardly a surprise.
“After discussing it with the medical staff and my family, I’ve decided that it is the right time for me to retire from professional soccer,” Friedrich said in a statement on his official website Sunday.
After debating retirement following career-threatening back issues at the end of 2011, Friedrich took a chance and signed with the Fire at the start of 2012.
His veteran presence was immediately felt in the team as he guided a young back line to the fifth best defensive record in MLS and helped the Fire back to the postseason for the first time since 2009, earning the club’s Defender of the Year award in the process.
Friedrich re-signed with the club for another year but his back issues returned at the end of preseason and he was never able to fully recover.
“I was very excited to re-sign with the Fire following the 2012 season but unfortunately my injuries prevent me from returning to the game that I love. I have been truly blessed to represent my country at the highest level and play for world-class clubs.”
On Monday, Fire players, coaches and even owner Andrew Hauptman reacted to the announcement, praising Friedrich’s strong contributions to the Men in Red.
Having perhaps ended his career slightly earlier than he would have liked because of knee issues, Fire head coach Frank Klopas hailed the year of service Friedrich gave to the Men in Red.
“It’s sad sometimes because those are things you can’t control in your career,” he said. “Arne was just first class – he was a great player and a great human being.
Along with playing 12 years in the German Bundesliga, Friedrich was capped 82 times for Germany and appeared in five major international tournaments (including two World Cups, two European Championships) for Die Mannschaft.
He always told me the greatest moment of his career was scoring his only international goal in Germany’s 4-0 quarterfinal victory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
“Even with all that experience, he’s one that understood the team came before anyone else,” continued Klopas.
Fire captain Logan Pause echoed the manager’s sentiments about Friedrich.
“I’ve gotten to know Arne well during his time here. What he did and how he helped us on the field speaks for itself.
Everyone can see his talent, ability and experience and I think it kind of permeated throughout the group.
“He’s a fantastic guy and person and just made our team better with just being in the locker room and around the guys. We’re going to miss him.”
One of the players that perhaps benefited the most from Friedrich’s presence was midfielder Daniel Paladini.
Into his second year in Chicago upon Friedrich’s arrival last season, Paladini helped the German adjust to living in Chicago and struck up a famous friendship that the California native credits to his spike in form over the last year.
“Arne’s had a fantastic career – he’s probably one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” said Paladini. “He’s someone that I watched every day, how he did things around work. It wasn’t just about coming to games, it was about every detail. We’d come early together, do our exercises and everything was just professional on and off the field.
“He’s had a great impact on my life and I’m very thankful for that.”
Though he may have only been with the Fire for a little over one season, Friedrich’s impact in the locker room as well as his love of the city of Chicago and its sports teams, made it seem as though he’d been a Fire regular for years.
Club owner Andrew Hauptman had this to say about Friedrich’s contributions.
“I want to personally thank Arne for his time with the Fire. He’s been a tremendous ambassador for the Club, as well as for the city of Chicago. His leadership, professionalism, upbeat spirit and impact, both on and off the field, will be truly missed.
“We wish him nothing but the best.”The club intends to honor Friedrich’s career and play for the Men in Red at a later home date this season.