The Chicago Fire and Major League Soccer announced Thursday that veteran defender and Fire fan favorite C.J. Brown has signed a multiyear contract with the league and club. One of the five remaining "Fire Originals," Brown will enter his eighth MLS campaign as a member of the Fire in 2005. Per MLS policy, details of the contract were not disclosed.
"I'm very excited to re-sign with MLS and be able to stay here in Chicago," said Brown. "This is where I started my career and I'm fortunate to be with a first-class team and have the support of the best fans in MLS. This year we have a new team and it's tough to say what to expect when you have so many new faces, but this has always been a team that comes through for each other, no matter what they put in front of us. We want to put out our best team and win games. Personally, this is the first time since year one that I head into the preseason 100% healthy, and that's very encouraging. I'm excited to begin the preseason and I look forward to helping this team get back on the map."
Brown, 29, is the Fire's all-time leader in games (172) and minutes played (15,098) and his 170 starts are tied with fellow original Jesse Marsch for the team record. The 2001 MLS All-Star has registered two goals and nine assists for 13 points during this tenure with the Fire. One of Chicago's most experienced veterans in the back, Brown's leadership, consistency and durability on the field have helped Chicago to four championships (1998 MLS Cup and 1998, 2000 and 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup), seven Cup Finals, three conference titles and the MLS Supporters Shield in 2003.
"C.J. Brown is an extreme example of one of those players that has contributed to an organization with such great value both on and off the field," said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "We are pleased to continue to have C.J. be a major part of the Fire organization, as he has been throughout his career, and look forward to his continued contributions to the club."
Brown returned to his status as one of the League's most respected defenders in 2004, especially in the second half of the season when he assumed captain duties for an injured Chris Armas and started the Fire's last 20 League and U.S. Open Cup matches. He notched one point off one assist in his 24 League appearances (all starts). He helped anchor a backline that allowed only two goals in the 2004 edition of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup en route to the club's fourth Final appearance in seven years in the nation's oldest soccer competition.
"It is wonderful for the league, the Fire and the fans that C.J. has extended his contract with MLS," said Fire President/GM Peter Wilt. "C.J. exemplifies everything the Fire looks for in a player on and off the field. His loyalty and leadership make him a fan favorite and he has garnered the respect of players, coaches and fans alike. We look forward to his continued contributions to this team."
On the international stage, Brown has made 15 appearances with the U.S. national team, earning his last cap on May 26, 2003 in a 2-0 win against Wales. He was involved in one of the biggest surprises for the U.S. during the 1999 Confederations Cup in Mexico, playing 90 minutes on July 30 against Germany, in the U.S.'s 2-0 win. He made two appearances for the U.S. in the 2000 Gold Cup, playing as a second-half sub on Feb. 16 against Peru in a 1-0 win and on Feb. 12 against Haiti, helping the Americans to a 3-0 win. He made his international debut on Jan. 24, 1999 against Bolivia.
Off the field, his vigorous work with charitable organizations and his involvement with the community earned him back-to-back Fire/New York Life Humanitarian of the Year Awards in 2001 and 2002 and the prestigious 2003 Fire/U.S. Soccer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year accolade. Since May of 2003, Brown has served on the coaching staff of the Chicago Fire Juniors, a part of the Fire's Youth Development Program, coaching the U-13 Girls Academy.
Brown resides in Chicago with his wife Kim and daughter Canessa J-Lyn (born Feb. 24, 2003). The couple is expecting their second child next month.