Dear Fire Fans,
This letter is a follow up to my letter from last October, which reviewed the disappointing 2004 season and pledged improvement for 2005.
In the October letter, I told you we would "examine what we should have done better and implement a plan to make sure we never have this awful feeling again." I want to update you on that plan and show you the ten key improvements we have made to the roster.
Committed to veteran MLS All-Star Goalkeeper Zach Thornton
Added Honduran National Team left back Ivan Guerrero with a portion of an allocation
Added Honduran National Team center back Samuel Caballero with the Bocanegra allocation
Acquired World Cup star Tony Sanneh in exchange for veteran forward Ante Razov
Acquired former Manchester United and Bayer Leverkusen youth player John Thorrington to play right midfield
Added talented Brazilian Thiago Gaucho, a 22-year-old attacking midfielder
Exercised the option to bring back Costa Rican National Team forward Andy HerronB Acquired U.S. U-20 National teamers Chad Barrett (forward) and Will John (midfielder) in the MLS SuperDraft
Drafted All-American Defenders Jack Stewart (Notre Dame) and Gonzalo Segares (Virginia Commonwealth)
Drafted Fire Reserves stars Chris Rolfe and Boyzzz Khumalo
All this doesn't mean we won't continue to face challenges, because we will. There will certainly be injuries, call-ups and even international transfers. Head Coach Dave Sarachan and his staff have worked hard and have done a tremendous job the last several months reloading the Fire for 2005. This letter is intended to show you that when we face those challenges, we will continue to be proactive to give Chicago Fire fans the very best chance for success.
These off-season acquisitions of course come with a price. We needed to open up roster spots for all of the new players. This involved trading Evan Whitfield and Dipsy Selolwane to Salt Lake, Henry Ring to Dallas, losing Andy Williams, D.J. Countess and Orlando Perez in the expansion draft, waiving Alex Boucicaut and the most difficult move of all, trading Ante Razov to Columbus.
Ante is the Fire's all-time leading scorer and exemplified as much passion for the Chicago Fire as any player in team history. We will miss Ante's contributions, but we are confident that the trade will improve the Fire overall.
It is exciting to examine the Fire's 2005 lineup:
Defense: Tony Sanneh's acquisition gives the Fire three new defenders with not only national team experience, but European top division experience as well. Tony played several years in the German Bundesliga, Ivan Guerrero played in the English Premiership and Samuel Caballero played in the Italian Serie A. Those players, combined with the Fire's returning defenders, SuperDraft picks and Zach will give the Fire one of the best defenses in Major League Soccer history.
Midfield: The midfield will be strengthened by the healthy return of Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch and Justin Mapp. Adding John Thorrington to the right side and having midfield depth that includes Thiago, Craig Capano, Logan Pause and Scott Buete is sure to be the hardest working and deepest midfield in MLS. Rookies Will John, Chris Rolfe and Boyzzz Khumalo will all compete for playing time and have opportunities to develop with our new professional developmental team.
Attack: Up front, the Fire will return two national team forwards, Andy Herron (Costa Rica) and Damani Ralph (Jamaica). Nate Jaqua, rookie Chad Barrett and soon-to-be-signed Canadian U-20 National Team star Will Johnson will provide depth up front when needed.
All told, the 2005 version of the Chicago Fire features SEVEN players with eight or more full national team appearances. That is an impressive fact, but it is the quality of the depth of this team and the added experience that I believe will make the Fire a top contender for the US Open Cup, the Supporters Shield and the MLS Cup championships in 2005.
As if these off-season developments weren't enough to keep Fire fans excited, this will also be our farewell to Soldier Field leading up to the Fire's 2006 debut in its own home at 71st and Harlem in Bridgeview. Your past support of the Fire is greatly appreciated and I anticipate that your support will be rewarded with a championship contender at Soldier Field this year.
Please call (312-705-7200) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) me with any questions, concerns or comments. We believe we must earn your continued support and we believe that the team we have put together will do just that. The new stadium in Bridgeview will have limited seating and will be sold out for all of the important Fire and international soccer matches. Be sure to secure your spot in the new Bridgeview Stadium today by purchasing a 2005 ticket plan.
Peter J. Wilt