Willkomen: Fire's German star says he feels at home
The Fire didn't sign former German international Arne Friedrich just for his impressive resume.
The club didn't sign him only because when healthy -- and he says his health is "perfect, no problem" -- he's a standout defender.
He wasn't signed just to join Cory Gibbs and Gonzalo Segares as a mentor to young defenders such as Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Hunter Jumper and Tony Walls.
And he wasn't signed just to add depth to the back line, making it a team strength, or even for his winning mentality.
He was signed for all of the above reasons, and his signing might have even more benefits down the road also.
It's not often a club can pick up a 32-year-old veteran of two World Cups still in good condition, but that's what the Fire has done. And if Friedrich adds all that Fire officials believe he can add -- see above -- this will turn out to be a landmark signing.
"I had a very good time and long time in Europe," Friedrich said Tuesday after his first training session with his new club since signing and acquiring his visa. "I decided to come here because I love America. I've been many times here with my girlfriend for vacation in many parts and areas of America. A few weeks ago I went to the city, and it was absolutely nice. I like it. I fell in love directly with the city. It's absolutely nice. Then I met the staff here and the trainer and they took very good care about me, so this was the reasons why I came here."
And that could be another long-term benefit to the signing. Friedrich could become an ambassador for the Fire, selling not only the club but the city also to other European players looking for another market to ply their trade.
"My first impression here about the team is it's a very good team," Friedrich said. "It's very good people. I need to know each person, but I guess it's going to be a good season for us."
The city is doing its part these days, avoiding normal March weather. The club says it's doing what it can also, showing it's a good place to play, that it cares about its players, present and past. It's a theme from owner Andrew Hauptman to coach Frank Klopas, and the players seem to be buying in.
"Every little bit helps," Klopas said. "It's relationships. Players feel comfortable they can trust other players and get the right feedback and learn everything about the club."
Before deciding to sign with the Fire, Friedrich met with fellow Bundesliga veteran Pavel Pardo over lunch to talk about the club and the city. Pardo, who joined the Fire last season, "told me only good things about the club," Friedrich said.
But don't expect to see Friedrich against Philadelphia when the Fire makes its Toyota Park season debut at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Comcast SportsNet). He isn't fit enough yet.
"I need a little time. This is what I told the coach," Friedrich said, estimating he'd be ready to go in three weeks.
"We're excited that he's here," Klopas said, "now it's just a matter of getting him ready to go."
Meanwhile, the mentoring can begin.
Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter @orrinsoccer.