The Chicago Fire have signed midfielder Michael Stephens after acquiring his rights from Norwegian Tippeligaen team Stabæk, the team announced on Tuesday.
Stephens, 25, played for former United States men's national team coach Bob Bradley for Stabæk. In 30 games in 2014, Stephens' lone season with the club, the midfielder scored one goal and had seven assists.
It is a homecoming for the Illinois native who spent the first four seasons of his career with the LA Galaxy. He was the No. 16 pick in the 2010 draft after playing collegiately at UCLA. He won two championships during his tenure with the Galaxy, scoring two goals and adding eight assists.
“It’s very exciting,” said Stephens. “I’ve been a fan of the club for a long time -- since the inaugural season I’ve been following the team. To get this opportunity is something I didn’t think I could pass up. I had a good experience playing with the Fire PDL team, I have connections to the club and to the area so it seemed like a really good opportunity for me.”
Head coach Frank Yallop said Stephens' professional experience will help the team rebound from a down year.
“Michael is an experienced player with four valuable seasons as a professional under his belt,” said Fire head coach and director of soccer Frank Yallop. “He’s a local product who is familiar with MLS and we’re glad to have him join our team.”
The Fire finished 6-18-10 last season and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
- Paul Palladino