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Fire Waives Futagaki and Spiteri; Bocanegra Set to Join Fulham

January 9, 2004 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Chicago Fire News Release

CHICAGO, IL (Friday, January 9, 2004) - The Chicago Fire announced today that the club has waived midfielder Ryan Futagaki and goalkeeper Curtis Spiteri. Futagaki, a sixth-round SuperDraft selection (54th overall) out of UCLA in 2003, registered one assist in six games played (two starts) during his rookie MLS campaign last year. Spiteri, who trained with the Fire during the 2003 preseason, was signed on October 9, 2003 after backup goalkeeper Henry Ring underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. The University of Portland product made one appearance last season, giving up an MLS record six goals in one half - the second half of the Fire's regular season finale at Columbus on October 26.

Bocanegra Says Farewell to Fire, MLS 2003 MLS Defender of the Year Carlos Bocanegra has been granted a work permit by England's Home Office, clearing the way for him to sign with Fulham of the English Premier League. The 24-year old Chicago Fire fan favorite became a free agent after his contract with MLS expired last December.

"I'm really excited about this opportunity," said Bocanegra. It's going to be tough to leave my teammates in Chicago. The Fire is a great organization and has always been supportive of me throughout my MLS career. But it's time for me to move on and playing in the English Premier League has always been a dream of mine. I'm looking forward to this new venture. I will miss Chicago, especially the fans, which are the best in the league. I would like to thank everyone at the Fire, my teammates, Peter Wilt, Dave Sarachan and all the coaches for their support. Hopefully I can be back one day."

During his four-year tenure in MLS, Bocanegra appeared in 87 games (starting 85) - all with Chicago - and registered 18 points on five goals and eight assists. He was named the Fire's Defender of the Year in 2000 and 2003, helping Chicago to three division titles (2000, 2001 and 2003) and two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup championships. In addition, the two-time MLS All-Star earned back-to-back MLS Defender of the Year honors in 2002 and 2003. He was selected to the MLS Best XI in 2002 and 2003 and earned MLS Rookie of the Year honors in 2000.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for Carlos as he has the ambition and desire to play at the next level," said Fire Head Coach Dave Sarachan. "It appears Fulham is highly recognized in the Premiership and is a team that really wanted Carlos. We'll miss him and follow him as he moves along in his career, but we expect to carry on."

Bocanegra made his U.S. National Team debut on Dec. 9, 2001 vs. South Korea. Since then, he has become a mainstay for U.S. boss Bruce Arena. He scored his fourth international goal on July 26, 2003 vs. Costa Rica in Gold Cup play, helping the U.S. to a third-place finish. He will become the sixth U.S. international currently competing in England's top division. Fulham currently sits seventh in the EPL table.

"I would like to thank Carlos for his great contributions to the Chicago Fire," said Fire GM Peter Wilt. "We were honored to have Carlos represent the Fire in so many positive ways during his four-year MLS career."

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