So too are the inseparable pair, who room together on the road, communicate in Russian and share a passion for fishing—from fly-fishing in Colorado to deep-sea fishing in the Atlantic to (as their amused teammates point out) staking out a stagnant, hotel-side pond during spring training in Florida, just to get in a few casts. Recently, after Stoitchkov moved with his wife and two daughters into a house in the Chicago suburb of Lake Forest ("Right near Michael Jordan's place," he says), he showed a visitor a guest room with two beds. "That one's for Dema," he said, "and that one's for DaMarcus."
Stoitchkov's generosity knows few bounds—and no international boundaries. Last December he hosted four Fire coaches for 10 days in Barcelona, giving them a behind-the-scenes look at his former club's operations, from the first-division squad to its youth levels. (Other highlights included a tour of a winery and lunch with a former coach, Dutch soccer legend Johann Cruyff.) For the next off-season, Stoitchkov hopes to match three or four Fire teammates with Spanish clubs for extended training periods. "If Hristo can say a couple of words on your behalf, that's great for any young player," says Beasley, who worked out with Spain's Tenerife last year.
Stoitchkov has especially high hopes for his frontline mate Wolff. When Wolff scored a goal and created another in the U.S.'s 2-0 defeat of Mexico in February, Stoitchkov rose from his Lake Forest couch and screamed with joy. "It made me very happy," he says. "I've always liked playing with fast forwards, guys like Romario, Rivaldo, [Michael] Laudrup, [Luis] Figo. They have the combination of being fast and smart at timing their runs, and Josh has this quality as well. Let's hope we can play together every game this season."
Durability is Stoitchkov's main concern these days. Though a sprained left ankle kept him out of Chicago's season-opening 1-1 tie at Columbus last Saturday, he expects to return in a week or two. In the meantime he's learning nearly as much as he's teaching. While riding an exercise bike in the Fire locker room last week, Stoitchkov called out in English, " Chicago Bulls? Nothing. Chicago Bears? Nothing. Chicago Blackhawks? Nothing."
He smiled. " Chicago Fire? The best."