BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire appear prepared to move on without Arne Friedrich, but the center back is still trying to claw his way back to the field after missing the first 11 games of the season.
The club announced on Wednesday that the 34-year-old World Cup veteran has departed for his native Germany for the second time this year to receive medical treatment, this time for a nagging hip injury. Friedrich is not expected to return until July 1, when the Fire will have 19 games remaining in the regular season.
Chicago acquired center back Bakary Soumare last week to fill the chasm left by Friedrich, but club president Javier Leon said last week that Soumare's arrival did not signal Friedrich’s imminent retirement.
The German veteran appeared in 23 games for the Fire last season and was a driving force behind the team’s return to the postseason, but he has not played a game this season.
“We still have hope,” Leon told MLSsoccer.com about Friedrich's possible return. “He's a great guy. He's always said to us that it's not about the money, it's about the fact that he wants to play. We haven't given up, so we'll see what happens.”
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Friedrich traveled to Germany in early March to receive treatment for a hamstring injury that he suffered just before the Fire's season-opener. After he returned to Chicago weeks later, the team’s 2012 Defender of the Year said he felt no pain, and a return to action in mid-April seemed likely.
But Friedrich suffered the hip injury shortly thereafter, and hasn't publicly commented on his situation in several weeks.
Soumare, meanwhile, started in his first game on the roster and played 90 minutes in the team’s 1-1 draw on the road against Real Salt Lake last Saturday. The club plays at the Charlotte Eagles in the US Open Cup on Wednesday (7 pm ET) and returns to MLS action on Sunday at home against D.C. United.