MLS fits right into new Fire man's plan

this time, it was back to England. He signed with Huddersfield Town, a second division club that was on its way to being demoted to the third tier and hadn't seen top flight soccer since 1972, and yet he had the most successful stay of his career.

"It was a dream of mine to go and play professional soccer, and it was always, for me, to go to Manchester United," he said. "I gained a lot from being at the two big clubs, but playing in the first team regularly at Huddersfield have been the best years of my career."

That is in contrast to Thorrington's experience at Leverkusen. The California native's spell with the German club coincided with that of former San Jose Earthquakes star Landon Donovan. While both players grew considerably at the club, their career goals at the time were not identical to the club's plans for them, and both players departed Leverkusen in early 2001.

"Toward the end of it, I think we both had adjusted and soccer for both of us, I would say, was going pretty well," Thorrington said. "But I don't think we necessarily had the same plans for our careers as the club had for our careers. They saw us on a different sort of path than we ideally would have liked. I, luckily, could go to England."

Back in England, Thorrington got his first taste of first team soccer. In two full seasons and part of a third, he made 74 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight goals. In late 2003, injuries took their toll on him, taking away his opportunity to see significant playing time and resulting in a move to English third division side Grimsby Town, where he appeared in just three matches at the end of the 2003-2004 season.

Thorrington said the injuries that have limited him in the past are now behind him, adding that he's confident he won't be slowed down in Chicago.

"I'm feeling very good now. To go through a career without having injury problems is the exception. It's a very fortunate player who has that," he said. "[Injuries] are probably the hardest and most frustrating thing to deal with as a professional. It's a very frustrating aspect that, unfortunately I have had to deal with. I guess the silver lining of it is it just makes you appreciate going out and playing.

"I know my body a bit better now from these different injuries, but I'm very much looking forward to a healthy and consistent season."

Thorrington is also looking forward to playing with his new teammates.

"I hesitate to make any sort of judgment because I haven't played with any of these guys, but ... there's a lot of talent, and just in speaking to a few friends throughout the league, I think a lot of people would be pretty jealous of the playing staff the Fire already have," he said.

If Thorrington stays healthy in the Windy City and impresses on the field, he may become the most recent in a list of young American players who have returned to the USA from Europe and gotten more exposure in front of U.S. national team manager Bruce Arena. Thorrington has made just one appearance for the national team, coming off the bench to play 19 minutes in a friendly against Ecuador on June 7, 2001, in Columbus, Ohio.

"I think it's pretty much everybody's aim to be involved with the national team on as consistent a basis as possible," he said. "I'm no different."

The signing of Thorrington is just one of a series of offseason changes expected in Chicago this year. Midfielder Andy Williams, goalkeeper D.J. Countess and defender/midfielder Orlando Perez all departed in the 2004 expansion draft, and forward Dipsy Selolwane and defender Evan Whitfield were traded to Real Salt Lake on Dec. 30.

In a story Monday on Chicago-Fire.com, general manager Peter Wilt said he is "working to find another team for [goalkeeper] Henry [Ring]," and the club has five picks in Friday's SuperDraft.

Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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