CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire announced Tuesday the signing of Honduran international Samuel Caballero to a Major League Soccer contract that will bring the seasoned defender to Chicago. Per MLS policy, terms of the contract were not released. Caballero holds a green card and will not count against the Fire's four-man Senior International limit.
"This is a major signing for the Chicago Fire. Samuel has played well at the highest levels and brings tremendous experience to the Fire's back line," said Fire President and GM Peter Wilt. "He is a big, tough, experienced central defender. He will keep us organized in back and make it difficult for other teams' attacking players. Drafting All-Americans Jack Stewart and Gonzalo Segares, committing to Zach Thornton in goal, acquiring U.S. World Cup defender Tony Sanneh and adding Samuel are major assets to the Fire's back line. We are not, however, done improving our defense."
In a blockbuster move Sunday, Chicago traded its all-time scoring leader Ante Razov to Columbus for U.S. National Team defender Tony Sanneh, who is expected to help lead a revitalized Fire backline comprised of veterans C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin and Kelly Gray and a promising group of youth including the Fire's 2005 first-round draft pick Jack Stewart out of Notre Dame.
With a dozen years of professional experience under his boots, the 30-year-old Caballero comes to the Windy City with a reputation as one of the most complete and versatile defenders currently playing in the CONCACAF region. After beginning his playing days in his native Honduras for Deportivo Melgar from 1991-94, Caballero shifted to Honduran powerhouse Club Deportivo Olimpia, where he spent five seasons from 1995-2001.
Caballero made the jump to Europe in 2001 when he signed with Udinese of the famed Italian Serie A. After three seasons in Italy, which included a year away from the sport to recover from a knee injury and a year-long loan to Serie B side Salernitana, Caballero returned to the Americas in 2004 when he signed with storied Uruguayan side Nacional, which he helped lead to the 2004 Apertura title last fall.
"I've followed Samuel for a number of years through my experience with the U.S. National Team, watching him perform for Honduras," said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "At that time I thought Samuel was the most dominant center back in CONCACAF. Obviously, to have a guy with that kind of international experience, both through his time in Italy and Uruguay and with his national team, join us, he will automatically be a huge presence for us both on the field and off of it.
In more than 40 appearances with the Honduran National Team, Caballero has scored 16 goals while representing the "catrachos" in prestigious tournaments such as the 2001 Copa America and 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup while also serving as a regular starter in the country's CONCACAF Qualifying matches during the 2002 and 2006 World Cup cycles.
"Signing with the Fire has been a goal of mine since last season. I enjoyed the time I spent training with the team and now it's time to get to work," said Caballero, who spent a week on trial with the Fire last summer. "I have great admiration for the team and its history. I've been blessed to play with big clubs in different areas of the world and I've acquired invaluable experiences that I hope to share with my teammates. Other than that, I'm excited to call Chicago my new home. It's a great sports town."
#3 Samuel Caballero
Height: 6'1" (1.85 m)
Weight: 180 lbs. (86 kg)
Born: December 24, 1974 in Gracias a Dios, Honduras
Hometown: Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Last Club: Nacional (Uruguay)
How Acquired: Signed with Chicago on Feb. 1, 2005
Professional Experience: Deportivo Melgar, Honduran First Division (1991-94), Club Deportivo Olimpia (1995-2001), Udinese Calcio, Italian Serie A/First Division (2001-03), Salernitana, Italian Serie B/Second Division (2003-04), Nacional, Uruguayan First Division (2004)
TRANSACTION: CHICAGO FIRE SIGNS HONDURAN NATIONAL TEAM DEFENDER SAMUEL CABALLERO.