The Chicago Fire announced Friday that the club has acquired goalkeeper Zach Thornton from Major League Soccer in a move that will reunite the 30-year-old netminder with the Fire, with whom he starred for the club's first six seasons. Per MLS policy, terms of the signing were not announced.
Thornton signed with MLS this week, and with the Fire having the first right of refusal to its former player, the "Men in Red" reacquired the goalkeeper who was a fixture in the Fire's line-up from 1998-2003. To make room for Thornton on its 18-man senior roster, the club has waived midfielder/forward Sumed Ibrahim.
"We welcome Zach back to the Fire," said Fire General Manager Peter Wilt. "He is respected by his teammates and his experience and talent immediately make us a better team. He has been a part of all of our championships and we believe he can help us in winning even more titles."
Thornton, who spent the last eight months with Portuguese First Division side Benfica, helped Chicago to four championships (MLS Cup '98 and 1998, 2000 and 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups) and three conference titles (2000, 2001 and 2003) during his first tenure with the Fire. A five-time MLS All-Star (1998-2001, 2003), Thornton is still tied for the career lead in MLS goalkeeper wins with 91 (91-52-23) alongside the Los Angeles Galaxy's Kevin Hartman, and during his eight seasons in MLS Thornton cracked the all-time top five in a number of other goalkeeping categories, including games played (170), goals against average (1.23), winning percentage (.617), saves (653) and shutouts (44), among others. He was named the 1998 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year after posting a 16-8 record in Chicago's inaugural season in 1998, as he helped the Fire capture "The Double" (MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup) in his first season as a starter. Chicago drafted Thornton in the sixth round (11th overall) of the 1997 MLS expansion draft after he began his MLS career with the MetroStars from 1996-97.
"To have the opportunity to bring back Zach Thornton at this time, as we make our push at season's end towards the MLS Cup Playoffs, was one that we couldn't pass up," Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan said. "He brings quality, experience and valuable leadership back to a team that he knows well and we look forward to having him back with us."
After being selected with the 20th overall pick by the Fire in last January's 2004 MLS SuperDraft, Sumed Ibrahim played in two matches for the "Men in Red" in 2004, including his only starting nod in the Fire's last match, a 3-1 victory over D.C. United on Sept. 4. The rookie product out of the University of Maryland totaled 68 minutes in his two contests for the Fire and did not register a point.
MEDIA NOTE - When second referencing Sumed Ibrahim's name, it is incorrect according to his culture to use only Ibrahim. In order to show respect and preserve the integrity of his heritage, it is correct to second reference his name by using his full name or by using only his primary name (Sumed), as it is the surname he will pass on in his culture.