Arne Friedrich, 33, is one of the most accomplished German players of the past decade -- which says quite a bit for someone hailing from a country at the forefront of the world’s game. His 82 German national team caps rank 18th all-time, and only five players who debuted in the 2000s for the three-time World Cup winner have more. Freidrich, who first played for Die Mannschaft in 2002, has started a pair of World Cup semifinals and a European Championship final and has captained Hertha Berlin, one of Germany’s biggest clubs.
A litany of injuries, including a slipped disc that required back surgery, and a rumored falling out with Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath left Friedrich pondering retirement. He had transferred to the 2008-09 Bundesliga champion in the summer of ’10 after eight years in Berlin and had appeared in just 15 of the subsequent 40 league matches.
Friedrich has been outstanding as the anchor of the Fire’s revamped back four. He has started 22-of-34 MLS games, leading Chicago to a 13-5-4 record in those matches. On the day he spoke to Sporting News, he teamed up with rookie of the year candidate Austin Berry to erase New York Red Bulls star Thierry Henry in a 2-0 Fire win at Red Bull Arena.