After making a tough choice to leave the Bundesliga, new Fire defender Rafael Czichos is eager to fulfill his dream in MLS

New Fire defender Rafael Czichos is set to fulfill his dream of playing in Major League Soccer. But as happy as Czichos is to join the Fire, he had to sacrifice something to make the move.

“I think the competition is getting better and better,” Czichos told the Sun-Times. “I love the country, I love all of American sport. It was always a goal for me to live in the United States and now I can connect it with my work. I think it’s a really good opportunity for me. I’m really happy with it.”

Czichos, 31, was taken over from German Bundesliga club FC Köln on Jan. 2, taking over the left-wing centre-back position taken by former Fire captain Francisco Calvo last year. Signed by the 2024 season, the Fire hopes the left-footed Czichos will provide professionalism, leadership and the same stabilizing impact in Chicago that he had at his previous club.

Czichos, whose contract was due to expire this summer, spent the last four years with Köln and helped them return to Germany’s top flight. Köln is currently in the running for a spot in the European competition next season; so to switch to the Fire, Czichos had to leave a team that means something to him and is doing well in one of the world’s best leagues.

Czichos also said his family felt comfortable in Cologne, but they chose a “new experience” that would allow Czichos to fulfill his wish to play in the US.

However, staying the rest of the Köln season and joining the Fire this summer was not an option. The Fire wanted Czichos to be on time for training camp and he knows it’s easier to move to the league in the winter rather than mid-season.

“It was really hard [to leave Köln] because the past half year has been really fun,” said Czichos. “We were successful and the chemistry in the team was perfect [and] working with the technical staff was great. It was really hard for me.”

It was also not easy for Köln to let Czichos take another chance.

Although Czichos was one of the leaders of the club, team management did not want to get between him and playing in the MLS. After the transfer was announced, both Cologne coach Steffen Baumgart and sporting director Jörg Jakobs praised Czichos.

Baumgart called Czichos a key player – as confirmed by his 16 starts and 17 appearances before he left – and described him as an “important point of contact for me on and off the pitch.”

“That’s why he was also one of the key figures in a sporting sense,” said Baumgart. “He is a straightforward, open man with a top character. You never like to see such types go. I accept Rafa’s decision to go down this road with enormous respect. It is a brave step, and I [wish] only the best for his future in Chicago.”

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After making a tough choice to leave the Bundesliga, new Fire defender Rafael Czichos is eager to fulfill his dream in MLS 2

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