CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire today announced a major trade with the Columbus Crew, acquiring veteran defender and U.S. international Tony Sanneh in exchange for the Fire's all-time leading scorer, forward Ante Razov. In the sign-and-trade deal, the Fire re-signed Razov with a portion of the same allocation (earned by missing the 2004 MLS Cup Playoffs) that was split to sign midfielder John Thorrington on Jan. 11.
"This is a very difficult deal to make, but we feel Tony's addition will make us a better team. Over the years, Ante has demonstrated tremendous passion for the Chicago Fire," said Fire President and GM Peter Wilt. "Within the organization and the team, he has been recognized as a critical component of our past success. Our trophy case would not be so full, so quickly without Ante. We will miss him and I look forward to the day in the future when he is certain to return as a member of the Ring of Fire.
"Ante's consistent ability to score goals is a unique asset that will serve his new team well. Nothing worth getting comes without a price and unfortunately, the price for Tony is Ante. I have followed Tony's career closely since I watched him play for UW-Milwaukee and the Minnesota Thunder as an 18-year old. I joined him ten years ago in Minnesota, transferred him to Major League Soccer a year later and am excited to reunite with him for a run at the 2005 MLS Cup championship. Tony brings strength, skill, experience, leadership and versatility to Chicago."
The arrival of Sanneh in Chicago will not only reunite the player with Wilt, but also with Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan, who coached Sanneh during World Cup Qualifying in 2001 and at the tournament in 2002, while Sarachan served as U.S. National Team Head Coach Bruce Arena's top assistant.
"The decision to trade a player like Ante did not come easily. Since the very beginning, Ante has been one of the key players and personalities in Fire history," said Sarachan. "Obviously, Ante's statistics speak for themselves. Moreover, he has brought a passion to the game that has truly been appreciated by our team, our fans and our organization. Personally, I'd like to thank Ante for his professionalism and everything he has brought to our team over the years. I wish him continued success.
"When the chance to bring Tony to Chicago came up, it was a no-brainer decision for me. I have had the privilege of working with Tony at various levels over the years and to be able to add a veteran whose playing experience includes MLS, Europe and the 2002 World Cup will simply make our team better. He has the experience and versatility that will make our back line a more formidable one. I am excited to be working with Tony again and knowing that he will be wearing a Fire jersey."
After spending six years (1998-04) playing in the world-renowned German Bundesliga for famed clubs FC Nurnberg (2001-04) and Hertha Berlin (1998-01), the 33-year-old Sanneh returned to the Midwest late last summer and signed with the Columbus Crew on Aug. 27, 2004.
In only six appearances (all starts) with the Crew, Sanneh scored two goals - both game-winners- and one assist for five points. He picked up Sierra Mist Goal of the Week honors after scoring his first MLS goal since 1998 on Sep. 8 against San Jose in a 1-0 win. Sanneh tallied his lone assist of the season in his first appearance with the Crew four days earlier on Sep. 4, feeding Ross Paule in the 26th minute to help the Crew to a 3-1 win over Los Angeles. Sanneh would wrap up a spectacular month with a rousing performance on Sep. 25 against DC United, tallying the game's lone goal off a header in the 10th minute in Columbus' 1-0 win at a sold-out Crew Stadium.
"I'm very pleased to sign with the Fire and play in Chicago, which is closer to home," said the St. Paul, Minnesota native Sanneh, currently with the U.S. Men's National Team in California preparing for the Feb. 9 World Cup Qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago. "I'm reunited with Dave Sarachan, my former coach with the U.S. Men's National Team and DC United as well as with Peter Wilt, who I played for in Minnesota with the Thunder, and Chris Armas, my teammate at the national team level.
"I know the team has a lot of new faces but it's kept its core. Chicago has a great tradition and hopefully we can build on that tradition. I'm aware that it's a very competitive environment within the team and within the League, so I hope to go in and keep the level of professionalism that the club has maintained over the years and continue the success."
On the world stage, Sanneh could not have asked for a better breakout year than his striking performance with the U.S. Men's National Team in 2002 during the FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. He started all five games and was one of only three players to play every minute during the U.S.'s record-breaking run in the tournament. Sanneh assisted on Arlington Heights native Brian McBride's game-winner on Jun. 5 in the U.S.'s stunning 3-2 win over Portugal, and was named Man of the Match in the U.S.'s 1-0 loss to Germany in the quarterfinals.
Sanneh has made 41 appearances (3g, 4a) for the U.S. National Team since making his debut on Jan. 9, 1997 against China. Although a back injury kept Sanneh out of action in 2003, the defender made an impressive comeback in 2004, appearing four times with the Red, White and Blue and scoring a goal on June 2 against Honduras in the U.S.'s 4-0 win at Gillette Stadium. He played the entire 90 minutes on Nov. 17 against Jamaica in a World Cup Qualifying match at Crew Stadium, helping the Americans to a 1-1 draw.
Sanneh began his MLS career with DC United in 1996, helping the team to back-to-back MLS Cups in 1996 and 1997 and scoring a goal in each championship game, including the game-winner against the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 26, 1997 at RFK Stadium. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee product also played professionally in the A-League with the Minnesota Thunder in 1995 and in the NPSL as a member of the Chicago Power (1994-95).
Razov will depart as the Fire's all-time leader in career goals (76), points (190), game-winning goals (23) and game-winning assists (15) in 155 (138 starts) appearances with Chicago. His 38 assists rank second behind Peter Nowak (48). He leads MLS in career multiple goal games (16) and ranks in the top five in goals (T-5th, 77). During his seven-year tenure with Chicago, the UCLA product captured the Fire/Budweiser Scoring Champion title five times (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2003) while leading the team to seven domestic Cup Finals and three division crowns (2000, 2001 and 2003). The two-time MLS All-Star was the only player in Fire history to record multiple hat tricks (2) and earn multiple MLS Player of the Month selections (March 1999/June 2003). He helped the Fire garner its first-ever MLS Supporters Shield in 2003 prior to the club's third MLS Cup Final appearance.
"It's somewhat of a bittersweet moment because there are so many great memories and championships," said Razov. "I want to thank the Fire for all it has done for me. I want to thank the fans who have not only supported me but also the entire team from day one. Without their support, our accomplishments would not be as memorable. I think the club and I were at different points, and sometimes in this business a move is best for both parties. This opportunity came and presented itself, and in Columbus I need to pick up my career and move on. It's not an easy thing to do, it's a happy-sad day, but this is the business we live in."
A right ankle injury in July of 2004 and a subsequent surgery in August caused Razov to miss the remainder of the season, however, in his 13 appearances last season he registered four goals and a pair of assists for 10 points. One of the most exciting players in club history, Razov would display one of his most memorable performances on Oct. 25, 1998 by tallying the game-winning assist against, ironically, Tony Sanneh's DC United at MLS Cup to help the team to its first championship title at the Rose Bowl in the club's inaugural season. Razov would go on to help the Fire to three more championships by winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000 and 2003.
Razov has 24 caps and six goals with the U.S. National Team. He joined the Fire in 1998 and spent the 2000-01 season with Spain's Racing de Ferrol (Second Division) before re-joining the Fire in 2001. He spent the 1996 and 1997 seasons with Los Angeles, scoring one goal with the Galaxy in 1996.
Height: 6'2 (1.88 m)
Weight: 190 lbs. (88 kg)
Born: June 1, 1971 in St. Paul, MN
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
College: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Last Club: Columbus Crew (MLS)
How Acquired: Acquired by Chicago in a trade with Columbus for Ante Razov on Jan. 30, 2005
Professional Experience: Columbus Crew, MLS (2004), FC Nurnberg, German Bundesliga/First Division (2001-04); Hertha Berlin, German Bundesliga (1998-2001); D.C. United, MLS (1996-1998); Minnesota Thunder, A-League/D3 (1995-1996); Chicago Power, NPSL (1995); Milwaukee Rampage, A-League (1994)
TRANSACTION: Chicago Fire Trades Forward Ante Razov to Columbus for Defender Tony Sanneh.