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Fire Keeper

By Joel Reese

Photography by Frank Ishman


Chicago Fire’s Matt Lampson first beat cancer. Now he’s leading the team into the playoffs.

IT WAS LATE spring of 2007, and life looked great for high school senior Matt Lampson. The 17-year-old star goalkeeper from Hilliard, Ohio, was captain of his team, he’d racked up another shelf full of awards and he was all set to play for Northern Illinois University’s soccer team in the fall.

Then he learned why he’d been having physical issues like night sweats and occasional lightheadedness: A biopsy found he had stage 4B Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which has a survival rate of 65 percent.

“It was certainly not something I expected or wanted to hear,” the 28-year-old Lampson says. Thoughts of playing soccer immediately faded, he says. “I was more concerned with, you know, not dying.”

But Lampson’s story has a happy ending: Months of intensive chemotherapy beat the cancer, and he’s now the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire. With Lampson helping to lead the charge (he posted eight shutouts and 57 saves in the regular season), at press time the surprising Fire were entering the MLS playoffs.

In addition to functioning as a veritable brick wall in front of the goal, Lampson has created his own foundation, LampStrong, which raises funds for cancer research and provides support for cancer patients in treatment.

“Since I had cancer myself, my foundation is extremely personal,” he says. “I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through, so my goal is to give hope and inspiration to as many young cancer patients and survivors as possible.”