They’re two of the most accomplished and well-traveled stars in U.S. Soccer history, but they never stray too far from their Chicago roots.
Houston Dynamo defender DaMarcus Beasley, 35, and Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley, 30, each have taken time during this MLS All-Star week to reflect on the role the city of Chicago has played in their intertwining soccer histories.
Bradley, of course, spent his formative years living in Palatine and walking in the shadow of his father Bob as he assembled a perennial championship contender as the first coach of the Chicago Fire. A young Bradley’s affinity for the sport was fueled during Fire games and training sessions at Soldier Field, where as a professional he’s had the chance to play high-stakes matches with the U.S. Men’s National Team and on Wednesday will feature for the MLS All-Stars against Real Madrid (8pm CT, FS1, Univision).
“Coming back to Chicago is always special for me," he said Tuesday. "I can remember coming down to the old Soldier Field on Saturday nights, watching games, the atmosphere at that time in the league was so unique and had such a European feel to it. Obviously there was a strong Polish presence in the team. Certainly when I look back on my childhood and growing up the time spent here was incredible."
Acquired via trade by Bob Bradley prior to the 2000 season, Beasley was a central player in helping the Fire to three trophies in his five seasons in Chicago, earning selection to three MLS All-Star Games. Training in Soldier Field on Tuesday and hearing the support from longtime Fire fans only helped to stir up fond memories for Beasley.
“It’s good to be back, feel the energy in Chicago and out in the city,” he said. “I always want [the Fire] to do well. Chicago Fire’s going to be in my heart, in my blood, as the first team that gave me a chance to play.”
Beasley and Bradley have featured for the U.S. in a combined six FIFA World Cups and each enjoyed successful European club careers prior to their returns to MLS. This week, they expressed their pleasure in watching from afar as the Fire have carried out a remarkable first five months of the MLS season.
They also both still have opportunities remaining in 2017 to go head-to-head with their All-Star head coach, Veljko Paunovic. Bradley will be back in Chicago with Toronto FC for a marquee matchup on August 19 and at Tuesday’s press conference alluded to the fact that “the two guys sitting to my right” -- Paunovic and Bastian Schweinsteiger -- "hope to have something to say about” his ability to raise a trophy with his club this season. Beasley, meanwhile, knows well that the Men In Red are due to visit his similarly resurgent Houston Dynamo on the final day of the regular season.
“Hopefully they play 33 games well,” he said with a smile, “and the 34th game they don’t play so well.”