BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Arne Friedrich loves it in Chicago.
The German center back and all-around sports fan threw out the first pitch and sang “Take Me out to the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field in June. He enjoyed a Chicago Bears preseason game two weeks ago, afterward declaring linebacker Brian Urlacher as his favorite player. And he loves visiting beaches along Lake Michigan when he has a day off.
Possibly the best perk of all, though, is that hardly anybody recognizes the former German national team player when he walks around his Lincoln Park neighborhood.
“I’ve enjoyed it so much so far,” the Chicago Fire defender said. “I miss almost nothing except my girlfriend and my family.”
Just months ago, Friedrich was considering retiring.
His career growing was growing stale after he played 14 years in his home country. The World Cup veteran was released from his contract with Wolfsburg in September after suffering a back injury, a situation he doesn’t like to talk about, and he thought about quitting altogether.
“I guess I lost a little bit of the excitement for playing soccer,” he said. “I got myself a little break and I thought about retiring as well, and I took my time, almost six months.”
Friedrich saw an opportunity for a new experience when he began discussions with the Chicago Fire, and he decided to sign a one-year deal.
After that one year, he was sure his American adventure would be over. But recently, he’s loosened that stance.
“Originally I started here saying I would like to play one year here,” Friedrich said. “I discussed already with my girlfriend, so I could definitely imagine staying another year. … We’ll see, everything has to be done and both parts of the contract must fit.”
If he does come back, Fire coach Frank Klopas is looking forward to seeing what he can accomplish at full fitness. Friedrich has teamed with Austin Berry to go 7-2-2 as a tandem, but he has stated several times that he won’t be 100 percent until he has a full preseason of work.
“You can’t duplicate that time that you miss,” Klopas said. “I think it would be important to have that continuity [next year]. He’s been fantastic. I think you’re going to see him back at 100 percent from having a full preseason and being with the team.”
Friedrich will take his time with his decision. His girlfriend still lives and works in Germany, as does his family, so living in another continent isn’t easy.
For now, he’s enjoying his time in Chicago. The German-born Chicago sports fanatic still has one thing to check off his list.
“The only thing I haven’t seen so far is the Bulls game,” Friedrich said. “But I hope I can do that in the future.”