Harry Shipp isn't returning to Toyota Park on Saturday to exact revenge on the Chicago Fire. He doesn't need it.
The Montreal Impact midfielder is doing just fine, thank you. He's adjusting to life in a new city and a new country, just as he's adjusting to his new club.
Shipp and Chicago Fire fans both were taken by surprise Feb. 13 when the Fire traded him to Montreal for general and targeted allocation money. He was a Fire homegrown, a kid out of Lake Forest and Notre Dame University who grew up a Fire fan.
Fans looked to the 24-year-old to lead the Fire, in part because he was one of the few attacking players the Fire had, in part because he was one of the few they recognized on an ever-changing roster.
"It's never easy the first time, leaving a club, especially me being in a place I lived my whole life," Shipp said. "I don't regret being emotional about it at first at all. Now that it's been a little bit of time, I'm getting settled in. I'm looking forward to the challenge.
"It's just that, it's a challenge. The situation sets me up for personal success here. There's no excuses anymore in terms of me not being able to have a successful career here because we have all the things in place for me to take it and be successful."
It's still early in the season, but the Impact (3-2-0, 9 points) sits atop the Eastern Conference standings. Shipp has started all five games, contributing a team-leading 2 assists.
Playing in Chicago again (4 p.m. Saturday, CSN-Plus) will be special, but Shipp is not making it personal.
"At first it was more sadness than any sort of anger," he added. "It was genuinely upsetting to leave because I really loved living there and I loved playing for the Fire.
"But now I'm gone and I don't want this game to be about me and revenge or any of that. I just want the team to get 3 points in Chicago because we can get to 12 points and stay atop the Eastern Conference."
With Montreal, Shipp doesn't worry about carrying the attacking load. He has talented players such as Patrice Bernier, Marco Donadel and Ignacio Piatti around him. Legendary forward Didier Drogba is practicing with the Impact again and could play on Toyota Park's grass field.
But the main attraction will be Shipp's homecoming. He will have plenty of family and friends in the stands, along with the loyal Fire fans.
"It's good that this wasn't the first game of the year because it would have been a little harder for me," he said. "But now that it's been a little time and I've played with my new team, it'll just be nice to be back and see those people. Being around them, they knew how much I cared about the club when I was there. It'll be fun and exciting playing in front of them again."
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