Herniated discs have forced defender Arne Friedrich into retirement. The Fire's 2012 Defender of the Year confirmed via his personal website this morning that he was terminating his contract with Chicago and retiring effective immediately. After injuring his back and hamstring shortly before the season opener, Friedrich traveled to Germany to receive treatment from a personal trainer and returned on March 27 with high hopes of playing again within a few weeks of his arrival.
Unfortunately he injured his back again in mid-April before, just before he was set to make his 2013 debut. The back issues were now more serious and another trip to Germany was scheduled with an expected return date to Chicago on July 1. The lack of progress in healing the injury made the need to wait until July unnecessary.
Friedrich wrote this message to fans this morning:
"After much consideration, a lot of time in rehab and in consultation with my doctors and therapists I have decided to end my career as a professional footballer. In recent weeks and months, I was concerned about my back problems increasingly. After 2 herniated discs my body is no longer able to meet the requirements as a professional athlete. Thus I have pulled my contract with Chicago Fire dissolving the consequence. I wish the club and the great fans all the best. It was a fantastic time with unbelievably great experience. I have made many friends in America in Chicago and found a kind of second home".
"For me the time has come to usher in a new phase of life but first I'm going to focus entirely on my health".
"I would like to warmly thank all the players, coaches, therapists and officials who have supported me over the last 12 years. I look back with deep satisfaction on a wonderful career and am now looking forward to opening a new door".
"Of course I'll keep you up to date"!
In anticipation of this eventual announcement, the Fire acquired Bakary Soumare from Philadelphia and moved him into the starting line-up immediately. Friedrich's announcement doesn't come as a surprise given his injury history and the Fire have seemingly found a competent replacement but the German's contributions to the club in only one season on the field should be admired. Highly respected in the locker room as well as on the field, he displayed class all the way up to the end of his illustrious career. Knowing that his retirement in midseason would free up a roster spot and valuable cap space Friedrich decided to retire now in order to give the organization the flexibility to add another quality player.
Class to the end.