When former Fire striker Calen Carr walks down the Toyota Park tunnel as a member of the Houston Dynamo Sunday afternoon (6PM CT on CSN Chicago, Galavision), it’ll admittedly be a little different.
“After spending so much time in the home locker room, it’s going to be strange to be on the other side of things,” Carr told Chicago-Fire.com Wednesday.
A five-year Fire veteran, Carr won the hearts of Fire fans almost immediately when he tallied a 90th minute strike and marked Toyota Park’s opening that day by famously kissing the newly christened turf in a 3-3 draw against New England. From there, his work rate, accessibility to fans and the community and twirling headband celebrations made him a fan favorite in Chicago.
Calen Carr's first MLS goal in 2006 Toyota Park Opening
But with concussion symptoms and other injuries that had kept him off the field longer than anyone would like, the Fire dealt the speedy striker to Houston in exchange for Dominic Oduro a week into the 2011 campaign.
Oduro went on to have a breakout campaign, leading the Fire with 12 goals while Carr's emergence in Houston took a bit more time.
“The trade ended up being a really positive experience for me. I had a great time in Chicago and a lot of positive memories but it was a good time for me to start a new chapter. It took me a while to get back on the field but once I was able to do that it turned out better than I could have imagined with us going to MLS Cup.”
Working through the concussion symptoms that sidelined him during the first half of 2011, Carr returned to the field on August 17, playing 10 minutes in a 1-1 draw at New England. He’d go on to make eight more regular season appearances before playing in all four of the side’s playoff matches, including 66 minutes in the MLS Cup final loss to LA on November 20.
As he returns to Chicago this weekend, Carr counts many memories but none bigger than the
Open Cup championship he won during his rookie year with the Fire.
“Anytime you win a trophy, it’s hard to beat that. It’s the highlight of my career so far. Looking back on that first year, opening Toyota Park and winning at home in front of the home fans is special. I have plenty of happy memories from my time in Chicago but in general, I’m thankful I was able to be part of some great teams with fantastic players.”
Admittedly still keeping tabs on the Fire, Carr believes the club is on the right track to make it back to the postseason in 2012.
“I still follow the team and I keep in touch with a lot of guys. I think they’re on the right track and I’m happy for Frank [Klopas] as well. He’s done a great job with the group and I think the team is doing the right things to return to the playoffs this year.”