Retiring Brown wore Fire red to core

The final Chicago Fire original decided his tenure has taken its course over a memorable 13-year span.

Fire center defensive back C.J. Brown officially announced his retirement Thursday. He will be available for selection when the Fire travel to the West Coast to face Chivas USA on Saturday for Brown's final match in a Fire uniform.

"It was obviously a tough decision," Brown said during a conference call. "In the past year or so I've been thinking about this, talking with my wife, my agent and parents, and trying to figure out what is the right decision for me. I've been here for 13 years, and they've been very successful for me. I'm now thinking it is time to move onto another career."

Anyone who has watched Brown knows that he utilizes his physical presence to stabilize the back line and shut down opponents. But the 35-year-old has shown signs of slowing down while taking a few substantial knocks in the process.

"If you guys followed my career, I was always hitting people, doing whatever I could to get a piece of a guy and let them know it wouldn't be an easy day," Brown said. "I'm not as fast and as physical as I've been taking those hits. It has been frustrating. If I'm not dominating out there, it is time to retire."

Brown's announcement is fresh off the Fire's recent celebration of Arlington Heights native Brian McBride's career during the organization's home finale last Saturday against D.C. United.

Some folks in Fire fandom were disappointed that Brown did not have a similar celebratory moment chronicling a 13-year career that began with the Fire's inaugural 1998 season and included the MLS Cup and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup crowns. Brown holds Fire records for most seasons, games played, games started and minutes played.

"Those that know me know I'm not big on being the center of attention," Brown said. "I love the fans, and the fans have treated me very well. They are one of the reasons why I've been here for so long. For me, if someone wants to celebrate, I'm more than happy for that. It would have been great to do it this year. Next year would be great if they have something for me, I can come back and celebrate."

Brown has been a part of some strong Fire clubs over the years. This season represents only the second time that he and the Fire are missing out on the postseason. This year, Brown has made 25 starts and logged 2,250 minutes.

But the 2010 campaign represents a meager blip within a long and meaningful tenure that first started when former head coach and current U.S. National Team head coach Bob Bradley and former general manager Peter Wilt selected Brown as the top pick in the 1998 MLS Supplemental Draft out of San Jose State.

"I was 22 years old and nobody knew who I was," Brown said. "Bob Bradley gave me the opportunity, Peter Wilt gave me the opportunity, and I got my first start in Chicago. And from that point on I was a starter. And the fans embraced me."

Brown has worn Fire red from start to finish and taken their "tradition, honor and passion" motto to the very core of his presence in Chicago.

"I never even thought about going to a different club," Brown said. "I always knew what it meant to put this jersey on."