Brown to retire after 13 years with Fire

CJ Brown (ISIphotos.com) 

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

When the Chicago Fire's season comes to a close following this weekend's match against Chivas USA, so too will the career of one of the club's most recognizable faces.

And his name isn't Brian McBride.

C.J. Brown is retiring at season's end after a 13-year career with the club that saw him win an MLS Cup, four Open Cups and a Supporters' Shield. Brown believes his time in the league is up as a player as he is looking to dedicate more time with his family.

"I want to be able to have some free time to play with my kids now," Brown told SBI. "I just feel like this is the time and that this was one of my chapters of being a professional soccer player, and now I need to move on to my career that is going to hopefully allow me to take care of my family in a different way."

Brown admitted that he is interested in coaching, with MLS being his preferred destination to land a job. Currently helping with the Fire Juniors – a youth club in the Chicago area – Brown said he would enjoy continuing his career with the Chicago Fire, but that no discussions for a coaching gig have taken place.

"Right now I don't think there's much of an opportunity there. They have their coaches that they've spent a lot of money for," said Brown. "They just hired Carlos (de los Cobos). They have their own coaching staff now. Maybe I'll get an opportunity, but every body's there and every body just got there so I don't see much of a change right now."

The former U.S. national team defender hasn't ruled out accepting a coaching position elsewhere should another club come calling, but even if he were to leave, Brown looks back at his rare 13-year stint as a player with the Fire with fond memories.

"It;s been great," said Brown of his career. "Obviously you have your ups and downs wherever you're at, and as long as I've been there I've seen good things and bad things. But I have to say I'm fortunate to be able to play my whole career at one club.

"I think that I made sacrifices to be back, whether it be money or playing, but I think they also made sacrifices to keep me too."

Having accumulated near 300 caps for the Fire in his 13-year career, Brown also is fully aware of the highs and lows one can go through. Brown points to this season as one of the lowpoints to his career, as the Fire is set to miss on the playoffs.

But he also looks back at the MLS Cup and US Open Cup titles in his initial season in 1998 as one of his top moments, and something that set the tone for the remainder of his career.

"We set our standards really, really high the first year and that was hard to compete with," said Brown. "We've been back to the MLS Cup two times after that. We've won four Open Cups. We've been to the Eastern Conference title four or five times.

"There's been a lot of steps. Look at all the players that have come through here. The DaMarcus Beasleys, Carlos Bocanegras, Chris Armases, Peter Nowaks, (Cuauhtemoc) Blancos. I've played with so many great players. (Brian) McBrides now and (Freddie) Ljungbergs. A lot of that are the high points for me being here in camp and playing with great players."

Playing against great players will come to a close this weekend for Brown, who already understands the significance of his final match. With McBride also set to retire at season's end, Brown already started to feel the importance of his career finale when McBride received his final farewell during the Fire's last home game at Toyota Park (a 0-0 draw vs. lowly DC United) this past weekend.

"It kind of hit me there. I was like 'Wow, this is it you know,'" said Brown. "I sit at home and think about it at times, but I don't think it'll really truly hit me until the preseason of next year when the guys are getting together and they're off to train and I'm going to be back at home when my body is probably normally trained to be working really hard at that time. It's going to hit me a lot around there."

Before that happens though, Fire fans and MLS supporters will get one last chance to catch Brown in action in a match with lots of meaning towards a storied career.

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21 Responses to Brown to retire after 13 years with Fire

  1. AL17 says:

    F….K!!!!!

  2. Chicago - Scott says:

    I love CJ but this day definitely needed to come. It’d be nice if he could take Los Cobos job though!

  3. kimo says:

    It was his time for sure…but a great professional throughout the year…congrats CJ.

  4. Fuegofan says:

    I’m really frustrated with the coach for not playing him at all in the last game. I would have like to have given him a standing ovation. He has meant far more to the team over the 13 seasons than McBride has, and deserved at least as nice, if not better, sendoff. Next year we must induct CJ Brown into the Ring of Fire.

  5. otergod says:

    With CJ retiring and Conde participating in a trial, our CB options will be quite thin next season. Good thing Kwame is coming into his own. We’ll need him along with a new CB vet.

    Great career for CJ, i wish him the best. Hopefully the Fire offer him a job somewhere.

  6. AL17 says:

    Fuegofan well put.

    Mr. Fire (CJ Brown) deserved a much, much better final season with the Fire than what he’s gotten this year. It would be nice for us as Fire fans to give him a proper thanks next season and if our club somehow manages to get a clue then they’ll have a proper testimonial match for him, he’s the last player from the original Fire and has spent his entire career with the Fire. I’d love to see that testimonial match against his first pro club, the San Francisco Seals. Not many in MLS have actually moved up the system.

  7. adn10s@yahoo.com says:

    The coach is a freaking jerk….how do you not know that it is his last game and not play him for his fans especially in San Jose! I am so happy for CJ.

  8. Chicago - Scott says:

    Can’t really blame the club for ‘no sendoff’ he hadn’t even made up his mind of retiring by last game. But I definitely agree that he deserves such a sendoff!

  9. adn10s@yahoo.com says:

    Agree!

  10. T-H-P says:

    Even if you don’t know for sure, you pay the respect to him by letting him enter late in the game. How nice would it have been for Brian to leave the field in the 87th minute and hand CJ the captain’s arm band that he’s worn for so many years?

    Honestly, if the anyone around there had a clue – they would have done a ceremony for Brian on the 8th when Columbus was in town and the USMT was playing the next day, and celebrated CJ on the 16th regardless if he announces his retirement. It’s not unheard of for teams to honor longtime players in situations similar. If this plan was proposed to Brian and he didn’t like it, then Fire should have let him know that he’s not bigger than the honor of the team and chosen CJ over him.

    I’m sick of Tradition, Honor, Passion just being words painted on walls.

  11. giaco says:

    There will be a RoF induction game and there will be a proper send-off, welcome to the RoF tifo that will be stadium-wide.

    No worries there.

    It is a little upsetting that his agent did not allow enough time for the Fire and/or local media to produce something for this story.

  12. TD says:

    Couldn’t have said it better. CJ will be missed, the last Fire original.

  13. AL17 says:

    Giaco,

    from what I’ve heard, this wasn’t a secret within the powers to be at the Fire, so don’t start defending this club in that manner. Puhlease don’t go there.

  14. Clayton says:

    Great career, CJ. Man, I always hated when my team had to play against him becuase he would usually give us hell for 90 minutes. Congrats on a job well done.

  15. but if the front office assumed that he was retiring without him or his agent actually confirming it, it would be an even bigger pr disaster. People would say that he was pushed into retirement by the “powers that be” and you would make an even bigger stink about that…

    on another note.. Chris Klien and Eddie Lewis are retiring at the end of the season…which means more cap space and roster spots to add some much needed depth to the galaxy roster..

  16. Felix says:

    CJ has been a great player and loyal to the Fire. He served us well. I hope he has a great retirement.

    But this as well as McBride’s retirement, opens the door for another local guy to join the Fire – Jay DeMerit. He’s from Green Bay, WI and went to college at UIC (Illinois-Chicago) plus its rumored he’s looking to return to MLS. Even nothing opens up in Europe for him in January, I can see this happening.

  17. giaco says:

    Al17, I’m talking about when CJ decided to announce it officially. And this has nothing to do with a defense of the Fire FO, more a criticism of the agent for not communicating with them better about a timeline for an announcement before that info was brought here. I’m also talking about a criticism of the agent for not taking this to the local Chicago media that does cover the Fire.

    An no, it wasn’t a huge secret that it was a very solid possibility, but nothing’s official until it’s official.

  18. Fred says:

    Hahaha. Awesome. Glad to see this POS out of the league. Also happy that he got to end it on such an abysmal team.

    Ciao CJ!

  19. ??? says:

    Brown has been great, and I don’t mean to take anything away from his retirement, but…
    There is something I have never really understood about why players say the “…to spend more time with the family…” line when they retire. Travel during the season would take you away for the weekend, but during the week MLS players put in, what, 2-3 hours a day? And the entire off season they do…what? What are they doing with all of the free time they get if not spending some with their families? Am I missing something? It seems to me most of them will have less free time after retirement when they need to move on to something else.

  20. papa bear says:

    He has been a solid warrior for the Fire and I have nothing but appreciation for all he has done.

    That said, this honestly should have happened 1 or 2 years ago. He’s clearly been ‘over it’ for a while. At the salary he takes in we could have bought some younger players or brought some in on loan to strengthen the squad.
    Given all that he has done for the team though I can’t be too mad at him, his past performances have certainly allowed him the prerogative to collect a check while contributing less the last 2 years.

  21. giaco says:

    Funny thing about that past 2 years is that in his past 2 years on his down side he still did more for the team (in terms of mentoring, leadership and professionalism) than McBride did, and with less of a paycheck still. Yeah, he was worth every penny of every moment (even that damn OG against Dallas).

    I cannot wait for his RoF induction. The team better be working on a testimonial match where Cj captains one side and Chris Armas captains another!