As Real Salt Lake coaching staff shifts, assistant CJ Brown returns to Chicago Fire
One day after the departure of head coach Jason Kreis, it appears New York City FC aren’t the only team benefitting from the coaching shakeup at Real Salt Lake.
The Chicago Fire announced Wednesday that former RSL assistant coach C.J. Brown has joined head coach Frank Yallop and the revamped staff in the Windy City, where he spent 13 seasons as one of the signature faces of the franchise.
Brown, 38, appeared in a club-record 372 matches across all competitions for the Fire after making his debut as a club original during the team’s expansion season in 1998. He retired following the 2010 season with an MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and four US Open Cup titles to his credit in Chicago.
Only former D.C. United striker Jaime Moreno and LA Galaxy mainstay Cobi Jones played more matches with one club than Brown did with the Fire. He was inducted into the team's "Ring of Fire" Hall of Fame in May 2012.
"The Fire has always had a very special place in my heart,” Brown said in a statement. "When the club reached out to me I was excited about the possibility of rejoining the organization. I've gained valuable experience with RSL and now, to come home and be a part of Frank's team, it's really a dream come true.”
Brown was initially spurned by the Fire following his retirement – former head coach Carlos de los Cobos never interviewed him for a coaching position – and his desire to begin coaching eventually led to a chance meeting with RSL officials at the 2011 MLS Combine in Florida.
Kreis and RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey approached Brown about a potential spot on the staff in Salt Lake City after the departure of lead assistant Robin Fraser, and Brown spent the following three seasons on the bench for the club.
“I have tremendous respect for C.J. Brown as a player, having coached against him and those tough Fire teams for so many years,” Yallop said in a statement. “Watching him grow from one of the top defenders in MLS history to helping guide RSL with their tremendous recent success speaks volumes of his coaching style, character and connection with the guys in the locker room.
"C.J. is the perfect choice not only for all his qualities as a coach, but also for what he means to this city and club, and what they mean to him as well.”