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Chris Kamrani
Chris Kamrani covers Real Salt Lake for the Tribune.

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RSL hires former Chicago Fire star as new assistant coach

From one highly regarded central defender to another, Real Salt Lake has found its replacement for departed assistant coach Robin Fraser.

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It's C.J. Brown, the former Chicago Fire standout.

The 35-year-old Brown just retired after the 2010 Major League Soccer season, and he's jumping into coaching to replace one of the league's most respected assistants. Fraser left RSL to become the head coach at Chivas USA.

"Absolutely great hire," former New England star Taylor Twellman declared on Twitter.

ESPN's Allen Hopkins said RSL was "making smart moves again." Brown "is a winner, and will do very well in his new role."

One of the original members of the Fire, Brown led them to an MLS Cup championship in 1998 and four U.S. Open Cup championships. He also made 15 appearances for the national team, and actually began his coaching career while still playing — acting as the assistant director of coaching for the Chicago Fire Juniors and the director of coaching for the Elmhurst Elite youth clubs.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Elmhurt is general manager Garth Lagerwey's hometown. Brown was among two candidates whom RSL reportedly interviewed, the other being former RSL defender Carey Talley.

Just guessing here, but Brown probably has a perspective that RSL appreciates, having come out to nowhere to forge his playing career. He played as an amateur for a couple of years after graduating from San Jose State University, leading the San Francisco Bay Seals to the semifinals of the 1997 U.S. Open Cup and opening the eyes of the officials who were launching Major League Soccer.

Brown became the No. 1 pick of the league's inaugural supplemental draft, and retired from the Fire as their all-time leader in games and minutes played. He's expected to join RSL for the first leg of its preseason training camp in Arizona, starting Sunday.

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