One more year for Fire veteran Gutierrez

[MLS] Many pro athletes take it easy during the offseason, indulging in amusements and luxuries or just chilling out.

Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez, along with his wife, Ginna, traveled to Mali in December to conduct soccer clinics, give speeches and make appearances in the fight against malaria as part of the Nothing But Nets program that he himself founded. He's signed up for one more year of MLS play

Fire midfielder Diego Gutierrez, along with his wife, Ginna, traveled to Mali in December to conduct soccer clinics, give speeches and make appearances in the fight against malaria as part of the Nothing But Nets program that he himself founded. As just one of several humanitarian programs he supports, Nothing But Nets raises funds for mosquito netting that can stem the transmission of malaria.

For a starter, that meant getting five shots in the shoulder to fend off disease. Twice. He and Dynamo midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, along with DeRosario's wife Brandy, spent a week in Mali.

"That's nothing when you see what people must go through in many of the African countries," said Gutierrez in November, shortly before departing. "Professional athletes, we have it pretty easy compared to that."

Gutierrez was voted the 2007 U.S. Soccer Foundation-MLS W.O.R.K.S. Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts, and he's signed up for one more year of MLS play. Gutierrez, 34, will retire at the end of the 2008 season as yet another of the MLS originals to hang them up.

His return to the Fire lineup will mitigate, somewhat, the retirement of another MLS original, midfielder Chris Armas, who is embarking on his new role as assistant coach.

Yet the loss of Ivan Guerrero, taken by San Jose in the expansion draft, could mean plenty of playing time for Gutierrez, who played 23 matches last season and 256 in his career with the Fire and Wizards.

"This has been a very difficult decision to make; my family and I have thought about it and discussed it at length," said Gutierrez of his wife and three children. "It has been a fantastic career and I am looking forward to a successful season for myself and my teammates in 2008."

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