Arne Friedrich said he would either return to Chicago or retire this offseason, and it seems both he and the Fire moved rather quickly to make sure it wasn't the latter.
On Wednesday, just a week after Chicago's season ended with a playoff loss to Houston, the Fire announced the club had re-signed the German defender. Per league and club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“Building continuity at the center back positions is a priority in 2013,” Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon said in a statement. “Arne's international experience and leadership are key to our defense. We are happy to have him back next season.”
After signing with the club in early March, Friedrich started 22 games for Chicago during the 2012 regular season, scoring one goal while logging 1,832 minutes alongside Austin Berry in the center of the Fire's defense. For his efforts, he was named the Fire's Defender of the Year after helping the club to the second-best defensive record in the Eastern Conference with 41 goals allowed.
He returns to a Fire side hoping to improve on their fourth-place finish and Knockout Round exit to the Dynamo, a disappointing end to the season that seemed so full of promise in September before a dip in form ushered in the offseason.
Friedrich has been effusive in his praise for the city of Chicago and the club, saying as recently as last Thursday that there was no possibility of returning to Europe to continue his career. In the end, both sides agreed to continue what has been a productive partnership, and the former German international and World Cup veteran will return to the Fire for at least one more season.
“This is what I told everybody in the past before I came to America: I would never again play in Europe,” Friedrich told MLSsoccer.com as recently as last week. “I appreciate the time here in Chicago. I had a wonderful time, it’s a wonderful club, very professional, and I like the city."