francisco calvo

As revealed on Friday, Chicago Fire captain Francisco Calvo will return to the team next season after the Club picked up his contract option for 2021.

In his first full season with the Fire after being acquired from Minnesota last May, Calvo currently leads the team in minutes played (1,245), and is one of three players to have started in each of the Fire’s 14 matches so far this season.

Calvo reacted to the announcement following the Fire’s training session at SeatGeek Stadium on Friday afternoon.

“I’m really excited, really happy to be back for this nice and beautiful Club, and represent this Club and this city,” he said. “I think it’s a big opportunity to improve and to give something to this Club. This Club deserves a lot of things, and I’m happy to be part of this.”

The 28-year-old Costa Rican international was given the captain’s armband prior to the 2020 season, and has helped the Fire keep clean sheets in four of their last eight matches since the regular season resumed in August.

In fact, in the time since Calvo made his first appearance for the Club - a 0-0 draw at LAFC on May 4, 2019 - the Fire have the third-most shutouts (12) in MLS. Only Real Salt Lake (16) and Atlanta United (15) have recorded more during that stretch.

"We are very happy that we (are) going to keep Calvo here," head coach Raphael Wicky told media on Friday. "Since the first day, in terms of off the field and in the locker room, Francisco (has been) doing a great job of stepping into that leadership position and function, and like we saw in January when a lot of the core guys of this team from last year were not here anymore, some other players had to step in and Francisco did that from day one and as a captain, he's a good leader. He's a vocal guy. He is good in the locker room. So, I'm very happy with that.”

“Since I came here, you guys received me like a family,” Calvo added. “I feel like I have more than one-and-a-half years in Chicago. I just try to perform well as much as I can and try to give my everything for the team.”

Prior to their reunion in Chicago, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and Calvo had a professional relationship that dates back to their time playing together at Minnesota United in 2017-18. More than most, Shuttleworth knows what Calvo brings to the team on and off the field.

“I can't say enough good things about Francisco," he said. "I think he's a great leader. He's obviously a very good player. I think he's the type of guy that he leads with a good attitude, but also he's willing to listen and he learns and, you know, if you try to have a conversation with him about footy, he's going to listen and take it all in, and I think that is big for someone who is taking up a leadership role in this locker room and important for especially younger players to see that kind of attitude and see the work that he puts in.”

“I mean, he's a Costa Rican international, and he is one of the guys coming into training every day and is working the hardest," Shuttleworth added. "So I think that kind of says a lot, and that kind of stuff is contagious throughout a locker room that this guy, he has played in this amount of games and played in a World Cup and coming in and training every day and grinding, you don't really have a choice: You're either grinding or you're not going to play.”

With back-to-back shutout wins in the rearview, Calvo and the Fire now turn to Saturday’s matchup against the Montreal Impact (6:30 p.m. CT | WGN, ESPN+) which will take place at Red Bull Arena.

The Fire are currently above the Eastern Conference playoff line in 10th place on 15 points after their wins against Houston and Atlanta last week, and can leap over the eighth-placed Impact with a win. Head coach Thierry Henry’s side have 16 points through 14 matches played to date.

“We just need to keep the momentum and think positive, think that we can beat any team in this league,” Calvo said. “We have ahead Montreal in front of us. They are a really good team. They have really good players and we have to respect them, but we need to take care of what we’re going to do in the game and just keep doing what we’ve been doing the last two games.”