CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire today announced the signing of Slovakian international forward Lubos Reiter to a contract with the MLS club, pending visa approval. Per team policy, terms of the contract were not released. The Fire used a portion of the allocation it received from the departure of DaMarcus Beasley last year to acquire the experienced striker on a transfer from Sigma Olomouc of the Czech Gambrinus Liga (First Division). Reiter becomes one of the first active European international players to join an MLS side in the League's 10-year history. Reiter will occupy the Fire's third Senior International roster spot alongside Ivan Guerrero (Honduras) and Andy Herron (Costa Rica).
"The timing of Damani Ralph's departure made this move challenging and important," said Fire President and General Manager Peter Wilt. "We looked at forward opportunities throughout the world and decided that Lubos was the best fit for our current and future needs. I would like to thank his representatives Ron Waxman and Milan Martinovic for bringing him to our attention. We viewed him on tape and spoke to (former Fire star) Lubos Kubik, (Slovakian National Team Coach) Dusan Galis and others with first hand knowledge of the player. His strength in the box and in the air will be a very good fit for our team. It is good to get a player of this caliber in the prime of his career, so that he can contribute to the Fire's success for years to come."
Reiter's addition gives the Fire five players acquired since January that have experience with their respective senior national teams, including Guerrero and Samuel Caballero of Honduras and U.S. internationals Tony Sanneh and John Thorrington. Reiter also becomes the latest in a famed line of players from Eastern Europe to don the Fire red, a list that includes former captain Peter Nowak (Poland), 1994 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot winner Hristo Stoitchkov (Bulgaria), and Kubik (Czech Republic), the 1998 MLS Defender of the Year.
"I do not know that much about American soccer or MLS, but after speaking with Lubos Kubik a few times, he said many great things about the Chicago Fire organization and about the League," said Reiter. "I feel very good and will take this opportunity as a new challenge. I am looking forward to coming over to Chicago and am expecting to come in and play my best. I want to prove to the Fire that they brought in a good player and prove to myself that I can be a productive player and score goals in MLS."
Reiter, 30, arrives in Chicago from Sigma Olomouc, where he has played since the 2001-02 season. After developing his skills in the youth system of Slovakia's Tesla Stropkov, Reiter played for the club's senior team in the Slovakian Second Division for a year before jumping to First Division side Tatran Presov in 1996. After three years with Tatran Presov, Reiter transferred to fellow Slovakian First Division club MSK Zilina, where he enjoyed a successful three-year stint before leaving for Sigma Olomouc halfway through the 2001-02 campaign. Throughout his club career, Reiter has tallied 66 goals in more than 200 league matches while also participating for his clubs in the UEFA Cup in 2001 and 2004 and the Intertoto Cup in 1999.
"When you have the ability to acquire a player out of Europe with Lubos's experience and background and the current form he's showing, it is something you can't pass on," said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "Obviously, with the departure of Damani [Ralph] we kept our eyes on an additional forward for our team, and we think Lubos will have a real presence on our team both on the ground and in the air, giving our team another great dimension. We were clearly fortunate, with the limited time that we had, to find a player like Reiter. We weren't completely convinced that, if the right person didn't come along, that we needed to make this move. But, given the timetable and having Lubos available, we're obviously very pleased that it worked out this way."
In addition to his club experience, Reiter has become a regular on the Slovakian National Team since making his debut for the country on the senior level in 2001. The striker has scored eight goals in 25 caps for Slovakia and has been a regular call-up for the side during its recent UEFA region qualifiers for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, having scored two goals in four substitute appearances in the country's first six matches in Group 3 play. Reiter appeared in both of Slovakia's qualifiers last week, playing 45 minutes and scoring the game-winning goal and assisting on the first goal in a 2-1 victory at Estonia on Mar. 26. He also played the final 25 minutes in a 1-1 draw against Portugal on Mar. 30 in a result that kept the two countries tied atop the group at 14 points apiece.
Pronunciation: LOO-bosh RITE-er