CJ Brown Named Chicago NISA Technical Director and Head Coach

Legendary Chicago Fire Defender and Veteran MLS Assistant Earns 1st Pro Head Coach Role
Published Feb 2, 2021

Chicago soccer legend C.J. Brown will lead Chicago’s professional NISA team as the new club’s first head coach and technical director, Chicago NISA President/CEO Peter Wilt announced today.

Brown, who was inducted into Major League Soccer club Chicago Fire’s Ring of Fire in 2012 and earned 15 caps with the U.S. Men’s National Team, is tasked with assembling Chicago NISA’s first professional squad and leading them in the club’s inaugural season which kicks off in August, 2021.

“It was such an honor when I received the phone call from Peter,” Brown said. “To accept this important role back in the only city I played for professionally is a dream. It’s my family’s home.”

“I will put my heart and soul into making this team successful on the field and into this amazing community. We hope to complement the youth clubs, academies, and amateur leagues that we have here in Chicago, as a pathway for players to achieve their goals as soccer players,” Brown said.

Brown’s fellow Ring of Fire member Wilt noted that this is a great fit for Brown and Chicago NISA. “The club needed a knowledgeable, experienced coach with connections to Chicago who shares the club’s values. CJ needed an opportunity to prove himself as a head coach and a team builder and an opportunity to do so in his adopted hometown,” Wilt said.

Brown also recognized the shared values he has with Chicago NISA. “I am honored and truly grateful to be back in the city that I love. Another intriguing aspect to this club is its intention to be on the front foot of social and racial equality issues in the community,” said Brown who is one of the few Black head coaches in American soccer history.

In addition to a professional playing career which saw C.J. help lift four U.S. Open Cups as part of Fire’s victorious teams in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006, Brown has enjoyed a successful MLS assistant coaching career starting at Real Salt Lake before coaching appointments at Chicago Fire, New York City F.C., Orlando City and most recently at New York Red Bulls.

Brown was drafted first overall in the 1998 MLS Supplemental Draft by Wilt when he was the Chicago Fire General Manager. He immediately stepped into the Fire’s starting lineup and continued there until his retirement at the end of the 2010 season. In his ten years and beyond in the league, Brown played in 249 regular season games, first in Fire history. He also appeared in 32 playoff games, helping the Fire to the MLS Cup in 1998. He won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006.

Brown retired following the Fire’s 2010 season as the club’s final “Fire Original”, and all-time leader in games played (372), starts (364) and minutes (32,538). At the time of his retirement, he was behind only Jaime Moreno (415) and Cobi Jones (392) for most appearances for a single MLS team.

He also won the Chicago Fire/USSF Humanitarian of the Year from 2001 through 2003 for his efforts in the community. On May 9, 2012 Brown was inducted into the Chicago Fire’s Hall of Fame, the Ring of Fire.

Brown played his college soccer at San Jose State University for four years where he was named a two-time All-Conference Player in 1995 and 1996. Out of college, Brown was ignored by MLS, and instead joined the USISL’s San Francisco Bay Seals between 1995 and 1997.

Brown played as an amateur with the San Francisco Bay Seals in USISL Premier League. In 1997, the Bay Seals played in the USISL D-3 Pro League and made an improbable run to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals. His performances made Major League Soccer clubs take notice.

Brown amassed 15 caps with the United States national team, his first coming on November 6, 1998 against Australia. He played in the US’s third-place finish at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, when he was involved in one of the biggest surprises for the U.S during the tournament, playing 90 min. on July 2 vs. Germany, in the U.S.’s 2–0 win. He also appeared in two games for the U.S. in the 2000 Gold Cup, playing 18 min. as a second-half sub on February 16 vs. Peru –a 1–0 win –and on February 2, as the Americans downed Haiti 3–0, he also participated in the Olympic Festival in 1994 and 1995.