There’s plenty of Chicago Fire representation for the MLS All-Star Game, but there's also a couple more MLS All-Stars that are having a homecoming of sorts with the game in Chicago on Wednesday.
Michael Bradley, a Toronto FC midfielder and captain of the U.S. national team, grew up in Chicagoland while his father, Bob Bradley, coached the Fire in the club’s first five seasons. DaMarcus Beasley, a Houston Dynamo defender and veteran of four World Cups, began his career with the Fire and played four and a half seasons with the club from 2000 to 2004.
“Coming back to Chicago is always special for me,” Bradley said at a press conference Tuesday for the All-Star Game. “Some of the most important years for me growing up and growing up as a young player were here in Chicago.”
Bradley, who turned 30 on Monday, spent some of his junior high and high school years in Palatine. He played for youth club team Chicago Sockers while Bob Bradley was coaching the Fire.
Michael Bradley has fond memories of being around the team.
“I can remember coming to the old Soldier Field on Saturday nights and watching games, the atmosphere, at that time the league was so unique,” he said. “It had such a European feel to it. Obviously it helped that there was a strong Polish presence in the team, but certainly when I look back on my childhood and growing up, the time spent here was incredible. For me to come back as a player, whether over the years it’s been national team or now with the MLS All-Star Team, it’s always something that I really look forward to.”
Bradley played in Soldier Field last June with the national team during the Copa America Centenario. The U.S. beat Costa Rica 4-0 in that game.
For Beasley, returning to Soldier Field brings back different memories. Beasley, who is 35, played for the Fire under coach Bob Bradley when the Fire called the old Soldier Field home. He left to join perennial Dutch contender PSV Eindhoven in 2004 and played for four more clubs abroad before returning to MLS in 2014 to join Houston.
“I spent a lot of great years here, four years at the beginning of my career,” Beasley said. “The people, the fans, they were amazing to me and I enjoyed my time when I was here when I was younger. It’s good to be back, it’s good to feel the energy in Chicago and out in the city.”
Beasley, who is from Fort Wayne, Ind., still wants to see the Fire do well, although he was well aware that his Dynamo play the Fire in the regular season finale
“I’ll always want them to do well,” Beasley said. “Chicago, the Fire is always going to be in my heart and in my blood for the first team that gave me a chance to play. Hopefully they play 33 games well and the 34th game they don’t play so well when they play against the Dynamo.”