One might think putting together an all-time best Xl for a club that has only been around for less than 30 years would be pretty easy, but I am not joking when I say it took me quite a while to put together this list.
Aside from the players themselves, even deciding on the best formation to include the best players on this list was tricky.

Would the classic 4-3-3 be the best approach so that I could include as many attacking players as possible? What about a 4-4-2? Perhaps the new, very intricate 3-5-2 with inverted wingers joining the attack would be the best choice?

The answer is none of these—because the only correct answer will be a 4-5-1


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Goalkeeper // Jon Busch

Of course, I am going to have to get things started off here with the keeper position. Right off the bat, I was scratching my head here because, typically, I would go with the player who just got inducted into the Ring of Fire by the club last weekend, right? Well, I decided to go another route. Sorry, Zac Thornton. Jon Busch, in my opinion, was the best keeper in Fire history. Now, I am sure this is an extremely hot take; however, there was just something about seeing Busch back there in between the sticks when the Fire played that felt right.

Was it the crewneck long sleeves? Maybe it was the slim, tight, long joggers he would wear in matches? Whatever it was, I think Busch goes down as a very underrated keeper in all of MLS history, as he did bounce around a few other clubs like the Columbus Crew and San Jose. Aside from his unique attire, being a left-footed goalkeeper always made him stand out as well. He had 22 shutouts in 75 matches in MLS play for the Fire. That’s almost a clean sheet every 3 games – not bad at all.


Backline // Arne Friedrich, Willman Conde

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Arne Friedrich

Let’s take a look at the backline now, starting with the center backs in a 4-5-1 formation. Arne Friedrich has to be one of the two center-backs in this all-time best XI pairing, no doubt. A complete monster in the back who also played for international giant Germany. He had 82 caps for his country, including two World Cups. His presence was always felt on the field. Whether he was winning head balls in the air or pinging 50-yarders across the field, Friedrich, for me, goes down as one of the best CBs Chicago Fire ever had.

Willman Conde

Although his stint in Chicago was short, with only 23 MLS appearances, he helped anchor a backline that only allowed 41 goals in the 2012 season. It’s only right to pair up a smooth, technical center back with a complete work-horse, vicious defensive partner. For that reason, my second CB on this best Xl has to be Willman Conde. I remember watching him play and just thinking, “Man, this guy just doesn’t stop.”

Conde was aggressive with everything—sometimes too aggressive! This is the kind of defender you want on your team and not necessarily playing against. He made 73 MLS appearances for the Fire between the 2007 and 2010 seasons and earned himself a spot on the MLS Best XI in 2009. The defender from Cali, Columbia, was a complete beast. 


LB // Joevin Jones, CJ Brown

Joevin Jones

Let’s now take a look at the best LB. Hot take alert! My choice is Joevin Jones. Now, I am VERY well aware of what Gonzalo Segares accomplished during his time with Chicago. However, when I think of a left back in a 4-5-1 formation, I think of someone who can get up and down that left-side flank and provide services. Jones’ speed and ability to dribble extremely well for an outside back put him up there on my list.

Despite only having 28 appearances here, he went on to have a wonderful MLS career. The Trinidad and Tobago international went on to win an MLS Cup as well. He is my all-time best LB for the Chicago Fire.

CJ Brown

Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the field. My choice for RB has to be CJ Brown. Primarily, he did play as a CB but, on occasion, would slot in on the right side. Brown’s tenacity and aerial dominance make him the only correct option here for me. Aside from his dominant defending, Brown was a major part of the Fire’s early league success, winning the MLS Cup in ‘98 and 4 US Open Cup championships.

There’s a reason the Fire drafted him number 1 overall in the 1998 Supplemental Draft. He was also inducted into Chicago Fire’s Hall of Fame in 2012. Club legend for sure and a part of my all-time best XI. 


Center Mids // Bastian Schweinsteiger, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Sebastian Grazzini

Bastian Schweinsteiger

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Let’s keep this going with 3 center mids. All good 4-5-1 formations need a solid CDM, someone who can sit back, scan the field going forward, and disrupt just about anything coming his way. My CDM choice has to be Bastian Schweinsteiger. Not much needs to be said about this legend. He was one of the first Fire marquee signings in Chicago after Cuauhtémoc Blanco. I don’t think I have ever seen a Fire player so poised and in control as when Basti was on the ball.

A true midfield maestro, the 2014 World Cup winner takes my CDM role on the all-time best Xl. Let’s move onto the two center mids to his left and right. 

Cuauhtemoc Blanco

As previously mentioned, Cuauhtémoc Blanco can be listed as the CAM or CM in this 4-5-1. He literally carried the team during his stint here in Chicago. His antics on the field instantly made him a club legend. He is not the most athletic player, but his vision, ball control, and incredible shot get him a well-deserved spot in the best XI. 16 goals in 62 MLS appearances but such memorable moments that he gave this city.

He revived a dying Fire team just as the new decade began. In his first season in 2007, he was named an MVP finalist. He was voted MVP in the All-Star match in 2008 as the MLS All Stars beat West Ham United behind a goal and assist by Blanco. He was even on the cover of the popular video game FIFA 2010! 

Sebastian Grazzini

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The final player to perfect this midfield trio is the one and only Sebastian Grazzini! Argentinian, left-footed, #10, and a great head of hair? Yup, this is my choice. Grazzini had a heck of a career playing in a number of leagues around the world. In Chicago over two seasons, he had 7 goals and 9 assists in 25 matches. It’s a shame he didn’t stay longer, as those numbers were tremendous in such a short span of time. What could have been!

I vividly recall his craftiness in the midfield and trademark cuts inside and across his body as he would glide past defenders. He rarely used his right foot, as the ball always seemed to be glued to his left. This reminds me of another #10 from Argentina… Anyway, he finishes off a perfect midfield triangle alongside Schweinsteiger and Blanco!


Wingers // Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa

Patrick Nyarko

Now, here’s where things get tricky. I have two wide wingers and a NUMBER of ballers from over the years to choose from. Maybe in the future, I’ll compile a list of All-Time best 18 and include a few subs because 11 is extremely difficult! At this point, I am torn between some of my favorite players, but choices need to be made. On one wing, I have to go with Patrick Nyarko. Wow, talk about a combination of speed and dribbles. Nyarko terrorized defenders for several seasons. He earned himself a number of MLS All-Star selections during his time here. I always found his play so odd because, as a winger, it always seemed like he was going way too slow as he approached defenders but then blew right past them with minimal effort. It was insane.

He always looked like he was about to trip on the ball, but somehow, magically, he would get to his spot on the end line and cross in tremendous service. I never understood how he did it, but man, was he effective! 24 goals and 39 assists in just under 200 matches with the Fire get him a spot on my best XL. 

Marco Pappa

Typically, I would argue that David Accam would be on the other wing, also pacing out defenders and taking players on 1v1. I think Accam is one of the best Fire attackers of all time, but there’s another player that I just simply cannot leave off this roster and that is none other than Marco Pappa! My first glimpses of Pappa came in 2008. I had never seen a left foot like his! The way he would start his attack far, out wide right, and quickly cut inside onto his left so he could take a shot from outside the 18 as he drove past defenders was a thing of beauty. It was art. Pappa may have had the first “cultured left foot” I had ever seen, besides the great Ramoncito Morales with Chivas de Guadalajara! During Pappa’s time with the Fire, he tallied up 26 goals and 16 assists in 112 matches. Phenomenal player, definitely gets a spot on my best Xl. 


Alrighty, what does Fabrizio Romano always say?

HERE WE GO!


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Striker // Hristo Stoichkov

Hristo Stoichkov

Time to pick out our one-forward in this crazy 4-5-1 formation. As I type this sentence out, I am kicking myself because it’s just almost impossible to decide on one lone striker. Oh well, let’s make our decision. Surely, I need to go with the most recent Fire Golden Boot winner, Nemanja Nikolic, right? “Inside of the foot,” right? Nope, not Nikolic. Well, surely we have to go with the last Fire MLS MVP, right? No, it’s not going to be Mike Magee (shoutout, Sneaky Fox!) Ok, then it HAS to be the all-time leading goal scorer for the Fire, Ante Razov, yes? No! I am going with the Bulgarian great, Hristo Stoichkov! One word – Lethal. I have one spot up top in this 4-5-1 formation, and it’s going to someone who has proven over and over that he is the man in clutch moments. I mean, his nickname was The Dagger!

I can probably go on for another 5 pages discussing all of the accolades he gathered throughout his illustrious career. Do yourself a favor and simply google him; you won’t be let down. I’ll leave you with this question; Besides recent newcomer Lionel Messi and Brazilian superstar Kaka, who else has received a Balon d’Or and has played in MLS? Yup, you guessed it – The Dagger


Well, there you have it. These are my Chicago Fire All-Time best Xl. So many great, legendary players were not mentioned, and that pains me to have done so.

I guess it just goes to show that even if the past decade or so hasn’t been all that successful on the pitch for the Men in Red, it’s nice to see that we are indeed a club full of history and prolific players.


Here’s to another 30+ seasons of history and quality players leaving their mark in the windy city. 


Let me know what you think of my best Xl and who I should have included!

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