BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — C.J. Brown spent the first part of the night helping his new club, Real Salt Lake, shut down the Chicago Fire in a scoreless draw on Wednesday at Toyota Park — only to be feted by the Fire after the final whistle.
The matched marked Brown’s return to Toyota Park for the first time since retiring at the end of last season, and his former team celebrated the occasion by honoring him in a postgame ceremony at midfield.
“There are just so many memories that I could be here all day and all night and write a huge book about all the great experiences that I’ve had here,” Brown said. “That’s why I think it’s so hard to come and go through what we did tonight. I appreciate everything, it was awesome. I was glad people still appreciate me.”
The Fire broadcast a short tribute video on the stadium big screen before presenting the visibly emotional Fire original with a parting gift. Brown, who spent all 13 years of his playing career in Chicago, then addressed the remaining fans with a short speech.
“It’s really tough coming back here and seeing what you guys have here. It’s awesome,” Brown told the home crowd. “I’m glad I was a part of it. I really want to thank all of you.”
Brown then spoke to reporters, expressing his appreciation for the recognition.
“This has probably been one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do, I think,” Brown said. “Listening and watching when they did the video, I think I’ve seen some of those clips before, and it finally settled in that I’m not here anymore.
“I was scared that people wouldn’t take to me very well because I’m wearing a different uniform, but everyone has been very supportive. They aren’t happy about the color [of the RSL uniform], but they are happy for me and that’s great.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.