Rafael Czichos Koln

TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Signing

Chicago Fire FC have signed center back Rafael Czichos from German Bundesliga side FC Köln on a three-year deal through the 2024 season, it was announced Sunday.

Czichos, 31, is a left-sided defender who is expected to lead Chicago’s backline as the Ezra Hendrickson era gets underway. He was signed with Targeted Allocation Money, per a source, and will occupy an international roster slot on the Fire’s 2022 roster.

“One of our key objectives for this offseason was to acquire a talented left-footed center back and we feel confident we have achieved that with Rafael’s signing,” Chicago sporting director Georg Heitz said in a release. “Working closely with Ezra and the staff, we identified Rafael as a player who will fit our style of play and bring more quality and leadership to our roster. We’re thrilled that he has agreed to join the Fire and look forward to welcoming him to Chicago.”

Czichos signed with Köln ahead of the 2018-19 campaign, making 111 all-competition appearances across Germany’s first and second divisions. Beforehand, he captained German side Holstein Kiel as they earned promotion to the 2. Bundesliga for the first time since 1981.

Chicago’s defense allowed 54 goals during the 2021 season to finish in the bottom third league-wide. Hendrickson, a defender during his own MLS playing career, is expected to lean upon Czichos to help improve that form.