[MLS SPOTLIGHT]Injuries and age have finally caught up with defender Arne Friedrich. The Fire defender, a veteran of two World Cups with his native Germany, announced via Twitter and his personal Web site that his playing career is over.
Friedrich played 23 games for Chicago last season, which represented a remarkable comeback from the two slipped discs that prompted him to terminate his contract with Wolfsburg in 2011. He spent months rehabilitating and signed an MLS contract in March of last year.
A solid 2012 season earned him the team’s Defender of the Year Award and his tutelage of centerback partner Austin Berry was seen as instrumental to Berry winning Rookie of the Year honors.
Hamstring and hip injuries suffered early in 2013 prompted two trips to Germany for consultation and treatment. The hamstring injury occurred prior to the season opener and he aggravated a hip problem in April. He had not made an appearance in a league game this season.
“After much consideration and consultation with my doctors and physical therapists I have decided to finish my professional soccer career,” Friedrich wrote on his Web site. “The last couple of weeks and month, I have been suffering from increasing back pain. With two herniated discs in my lower back, I am no longer able to fulfill the demands of a professional soccer player. For this reason, I have asked the Chicago Fire to terminate my contract.”
Friedrich’s condition prompted the Fire to acquire one of its former players, Bakary Soumare, from Philadelphia in a trade. Soumare and Berry have been paired in the middle for most of the Fire’s games this season.
Friedrich ends his career with 82 caps for Germany, for which he played in the 2004 and 2008 European Championships and 2006 and 2010 World Cups. Prior to joining the Fire, he played nearly 300 matches for German clubs Armenia Bielefeld and Hertha Berlin as well as Wolfsburg.
“It was a fantastic time with unbelievably great experience," Friedrich wrote on his personal site. "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.”