Chicago Fire legend C.J. Brown is the 1st technical director and coach of the new Chicago NISA club

Jeremy Mikula, Chicago Tribune
·2 min read

The list of accomplishments on C.J. Brown’s resume is extensive.

One MLS Cup, one Supporters’ Shield, four U.S. Open Cups, the most games played and started in Chicago Fire history, a longtime captain and a “Ring of Fire” inductee.

Brown can add technical director and head coach of the new Chicago club in the National Independent Soccer Association.

The third-division club on Tuesday announced Brown as its first technical director and coach, tasking the 45-year-old with building the team’s initial roster as it aims to play its inaugural season later this year.

“I’ve tried to hire C.J. before and I’ve come up short,” team President/CEO Peter Wilt said during a conference call. “He’s been very gracious (turning down opportunities) and I think both of us are fortunate to be able to work together at this opportunity.”

Brown has spent 10 years as an assistant coach in Major League Soccer, working on the staffs of Real Salt Lake (2011-13), the Fire (2014), New York City FC (2015), Orlando City (2016-18) and the New York Red Bulls (2018-20).

He also served as head coach of developmental team Aurora Borealis in 2016.

“I’ve been able to learn all different styles of soccer,” Brown said of his various stints. “Possession style and more direct style and an unbelievably high pressing style. And the coaches that I worked under, their work ethic and their attention to details, I’ve been able to tap into and work with and learn from and listen.”

Returning to Chicago was always on Brown’s mind after playing for the Fire from 1998 to 2010.

“I had this conversation with (former Fire player and Toronto FC coach) Chris Armas, but if I ever had a chance to coach, I would love to coach in Chicago,” Brown said. “I have a good passion for Chicago soccer. ... I want to get out in the community and work with the youth clubs to help give them another platform to show off their talent.”

Brown and Wilt have a long history dating to 1998, when Wilt, then the Fire’s general manager, brought Brown to Chicago for the team’s first season via a supplemental draft.

“C.J. was head and shoulders above all the other players in that draft,” Wilt said. “He turned out to be the foundation and the bedrock for the Chicago Fire on and off the field and in the community.”

The NISA club — which has yet to announce its name and branding — is aiming to play its first game in August. It announced last week it will play its matches at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.