John Thorrington 3192010

JT finds a home in Chicago

No not that JT, the Fire's own version, John Thorrington.

The U.S. international falls into a special category when it comes to the American player. Joining the likes of Landon Donovan, Jovan Kirovski and John O'Brien, Thorrington became one of the few American youths to skip college, opting to jump into the professional game overseas during the 90's.

A product of Palos Verdes, CA, via Johannesburg, South Africa, Thorrington found his way to English giants Manchester United in 1997, after being scouted locally and spending three weeks on trial with the club between his junior and senior years of high school. Upon signing at Old Trafford, Thorrington became the youngest American to join a team in the English Premier League.

"The way things work out sometimes is interesting," said Thorrington from Houston. "My coach in California had a contact in England who came to watch me play and soon after I was there in England. They offered me a youth contract and with my parents blessing I moved when I was 17-years-old."

Though he never saw a first team match with the Red Devils, training in the shadows of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham at the club's Carrington training ground helped propel Thorrington to the 1999 U.S. Men's World Youth Championship team in Nigeria, leading the U.S. to a 1-0 upset of England in the group stage and helping the team to the Round of 16. Thorrington appeared in all four tournament matches, making enough of an impression on German side Bayer Leverkusen for them to offer him a contract, where he would eventually be joined by another aforementioned player in the form of Landon Donovan.

"Leverkusen made me an offer both playing wise and monetarily that I felt was worth grabbing. Landon [Donovan] signed with the team not too long after I did and we played in the youth and reserve sides together our first few years. We spent a lot of time together outside of football and I think I was able to relate to his situation. It was a long time ago now but we still talk and I have fond memories of that time in my career."

Unfortunately a string of injuries and bad luck saw Thorrington fail to make his mark in Germany. Feeling stalled and harboring a desire to get first team games, Thorrington returned to England with Huddersfield Town of the English First Division towards the end of the 2000-01 season, though the club was relegated before he was eligible to play.

"At the time I felt getting first team matches was the most important thing for my career and I was ready to go somewhere that I could play."

In June of that year, Thorrington received a call-up from U.S. National Team coach Bruce Arena for a friendly match against Ecuador in Columbus, OH.

"That was definitely a highlight in my career. It was only a friendly and I think I only played about 20 minutes but it's an honor to play for your country and to play with some of the best players the U.S. has produced."

Spurred by his first national team cap, Thorrington took the experience back with him to England, where he finally made his club debut with Huddersfield, eventually appearing in 33 matches, scoring seven goals in his first two seasons with the Terriers before the injury bug stuck again.

Seeing the field only six times during his final season in England, spent between Huddersfield and a loan sting with Grimsby Town, the midfielder set a new course for himself.

"I took a lot away from my time in Europe but injuries had started to take their toll a bit and I saw tough times both on and off the field. I decided with my family that I was best suited to come home and though a few other MLS clubs showed interest, Chicago seemed the best fit for me."

Joining the Fire in 2005, Thorrington's first three years in the Windy City followed a similar pattern of injury, suffering from a broken leg and hamstring issues, Thorrington played a total of 10 matches over his first two seasons with the club. He was waived in early 2007, though the Fire picked him up back from waivers in September of that year. This time around Thorrington stayed healthy, playing in 23 matches the following year, the most of any season in his career.

With a cleaner bill of health than he'd had since his youth, Thorrington appeared in 42 matches over the last two seasons, becoming a fixture in the Fire midfield and earning three more caps with the United States national team, including appearances in two World Cup qualifiers during 2008.

"I've had injury issues throughout my career and you need to be healthy to contribute to a team. The thing I've learned is that the tough times make the good ones that much sweeter. I've made mistakes and have had a few bitter experiences over the years but I wouldn't change any of it now. I'm happy where I'm at and have realized things happen for a reason. The last two years have been some of the most enjoyable and I'm looking to repay the longtime faith the organization has shown in me."

Under the new leadership of head coach Carlos de los Cobos, Thorrington's goals reflect those of the club.

"Specifically in Chicago, the attitude has always been to win every competition we participate in -- you see that with the team's success above others in the U.S. Open Cup. The new philosophy with Carlos has seen a larger emphasis made on attractive soccer. Winning is important, but doing it attractively is also a priority and that's the big thing he's brought so far. In that way, his style meshes with mine. Any coaching change is a process, but things have gone very well with him so far."

In the last match of the club's preseason tour, the Fire take on the Houston Dynamo Thursday night at 7:00 pm at the Carl Lewis Track & Field Complex in Houston, TX. The Fire return to Chicago this weekend to continue preparations for 2010 First Kick when they travel to the new Red Bull Arena, to take on New York on March 27.