Legendary Chicago Fire FC Goalkeeper Zach Thornton to be Inducted into Ring of Fire at Soldier Field on April 27
CHICAGO - Chicago Fire FC today announced that former Fire goalkeeper and current goalkeeper coach Zach Thornton will be officially inducted into the Club's Hall of Fame, known as the Ring of Fire.
The ceremony will take place at Soldier Field on Saturday, April 27, when the Chicago Fire takes on Atlanta United FC. As part of the induction ceremony, Thornton will be recognized on a banner behind the south goal at Soldier Field alongside banners of the other members.
"We're thrilled to announce Zach Thornton's induction into our Ring of Fire, cementing his legacy as an all-time great in Club history," said Chicago Fire FC Owner and Chairman Joe Mansueto. "Zach was an exceptional goalkeeper for the Fire and is one of just three players to be a part of all six of the Club's major trophies. With his achievements as a player and his current contributions as a member of the First Team coaching staff, Zach has made a significant impact on the Club, both on and off the field. We look forward to officially presenting Zach with this well-deserved honor at Soldier Field on April 27."
The "Ring of Fire" tribute began in 2003 to honor the Club's most impactful players, coaches, and executives, celebrating their accomplishments as those who embody qualities of leadership, dedication, and integrity. The oldest such tribute in Major League Soccer, inductees are selected by Ring of Fire members in consultation with Club leadership.
"As I said when I joined the Fire as goalkeeper coach, this is my Club, this is my second home, and I am blessed to be part of this elite group," said Thornton. "I've been a lot of places, played in a lot of places, but this is definitely one of my top soccer honors, ever. It's impossible to accomplish something like this alone and I'd like to thank my parents and all the players and staff that have helped along the way. Winning that '98 championship, playing with Frank Klopas and the guys, that was great, but it was the friendships that we made that have lasted over the years that make it even more special."
Thornton will become the first goalkeeper inducted into the Ring of Fire and the ninth member overall. A seventh-round pick in the 1996 MLS Inaugural Player Draft, he spent two years with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars before the Fire acquired him with the 11th pick in the 1997 MLS Expansion Draft. After earning the starting job in the Fire's inaugural season, he was named the League's Goalkeeper of the Year as the Club took home the 1998 MLS Cup and 1998 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles. The Fire remains the only expansion team in League history to win the domestic double in their first season.
"I'd like to congratulate Zach on his induction into the Ring of Fire," said Chicago Fire FC Head Coach Frank Klopas. "It is an honor to have played with Zach and to work together for the Club that we love. Zach is an incredible person and a talented professional, and I'm proud to call him a friend."
He continued his reign as one of the top goalkeepers in MLS during his initial six-year stint with the Fire, earning three MLS All-Star bids (1998, 1999, 2000). He was also a part of the Club's U.S. Open Cup championship teams in 1998, 2000, and 2003. After a year abroad, he returned to the Club in late 2004 and spent two more years as the Fire's shot-stopper. Thornton remains only one of three Fire Originals to have won every domestic championship in Club history, alongside midfielder Chris Armas and defender C.J. Brown, both of whom are members of the Ring of Fire.
Thornton joins Armas, Brown, former captain Piotr Nowak, former defender Lubos Kubik, former forward and Head Coach Frank Klopas, the Fire's first General Manager Peter Wilt, former head coach Bob Bradley, and former forward Ante Razov in the club's Ring of Fire.
To witness Thornton's induction into the Ring of Fire, click here to purchase tickets for the April 27 match versus Atlanta United. The match will also serve as the Club's celebration of 90s Night, presented by Wintrust, where fans can throw it back to the era of boy bands, Blockbuster, and grunge fashion during a nostalgia-filled night.
Chicago's 2024 regular season, driven by Carvana, will open on the road against the Philadelphia Union at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, Feb. 24, at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa. The following weekend, the Fire will host 2023 MLS Supporters' Shield winners FC Cincinnati on March 2 at Soldier Field. Scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. CT, the match against Cincinnati will mark the earliest home opener in Chicago Fire history, occurring two days prior to the Club's 2023 opener. Tickets are available starting at $29 and can be purchased here via Ticketmaster.com or by calling 888-MLS-FIRE.
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