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Chicago Fire 1-2 San Jose: A Fan’s Perspective

 Chicago Fire 1 2 San Jose: A Fans Perspective

It was a perfect day in Chicago. Warm temperatures and brilliant sunlight lead most people in my suburban Chicago neighborhood to get out in the garden and start their spring clean-up. When my wife told my neighborhood I had tickets for the Fire home opener vs. San Jose, she was envious. I am a veteran of many an opening day for Chicago sports teams and have not been so excited for a team’s opener since sometime when Walter Payton was wearing a Bears uniform.

Now if you’re attending a sporting event in Chicago in April dress like January and you can’t go wrong. You can always take off things but cannot put on a jacket you never brought. However, my Fire jersey was still proudly displayed.

The drive to Toyota Park in Chicago’s southwest suburban area takes an hour for me. I do not mind, especially since due to the magic of the iPhone I can listen to MLS pre-game from out-of-town stations. Chicago still lacks an English radio broadcast for Fire games.

When I reached the exit for Toyota Park I was shocked but pleased that traffic was backed up. Could this be a Fire game that backs up traffic? Well yes and no, there was a crowd going into the park but also just a lot of other traffic on this wonderful spring day and more than a few poor drivers. After clearing the traffic jam I shortly came upon Toyota Park and instantly felt a surge of pride. The parking lot had never appeared so filled to me! Could soccer finally be on the sports radar?

Parking is normally very easy at Toyota Park and, despite the crowd, was once again. Fifteen dollars will get you in (no value) but by this point you’re happy to pay. Having taken longer to arrive then planned I made my way through the parking lot filled with tailgaters to the gate. I climbed the stairs to the stadium area and came upon the beautiful site of the green field, the video screen welcoming everyone to opening night, and packed concourses of people lining up for food.

Now for the important choice of the evening. Which should be my first food selection of the new season? My favorite place to eat is the grill located at the southeast corner of the stadium. It took me a minute to run down the new menu options but the choice was a polish sausage with grilled onions and peppers. Not bad.

After that I moved through the sea of red to find the free gift booth for season ticket holders. It was a Fire knit cap, good quality but not too likely to be worn by this middle aged guy. Fire fans love wearing their team jerseys, more so than any other fans in Chicago. Everyone, young and old is dressed in Fire wear of some sort. My preference is for the away white jersey and it seemed a bit out of place, the vast majority preferred red. After waiting in line for my free gift, I made the trip to my seat — my home for the season and, while pleased, I quickly decided the other end of the row would have been a better choice. My choice. I’ll deal with it.

Finally game time. Well here is where the perfect night and day is ruined. The Fire missed a good number of chances in the first half including a clear open net by Collins John to be tied nil-nil at halftime. Okay, the Fire controlled the game limiting the chances of the visiting San Jose Earthquakes, and should be ahead. Everyone felt certain a goal would be forthcoming for the home team.

When San Jose did have a chance in the first 45 minutes the Fire defense did seem disorganized. I was worried and sure enough the disorganization took its toll when early in the second half the Fire defense gifted San Jose a goal when the keeper Dykstra became entangled with his defense and fell to the ground leaving an open net for San Jose to tap the ball in. I was still tweeting my displeasure on my iPhone when shortly thereafter Marco Pappa blasted an equalizer into the San Jose net. There was hope, well at least until the 81st minute when Bobby Convey found Ike Opara having his lunch in front of the Fire net and easily made the score 2-1. It ended that way.

I’ll save by displeasure for the on the field play and coaching decisions for some other time and place. However, it appears after 3 games the team is not responding well to new coach Carlos de los Cobos style of play. The record opening day crowd of over 20,000 people left disappointed. Tradition has it that after a bitter defeat you vent your anger by calling the post-game radio talk show. With no English radio this is not possible in Chicago. What was a decent substitute was due again to the magic of the iPhone I called up the broadcast of the Seattle Sounders game to hear an exciting finish in my car on the way home and enjoy their post-game show.

So after an hour drive home delayed by a traffic accident and train crossing I returned. Lucky next week the Fire are on the road. I do not think I would do things all over again next week end after this defeat and it will take a week and a win to re-ignite my Fire. The Fire front office and the fans made it a special opening night. The team should be alarmed by its play. No matter how nice the night and how great the crowd and how tasty the food, wins bring the crowds and the Fire have none after 3 games.

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9 Responses to Chicago Fire 1-2 San Jose: A Fan’s Perspective

  1. DC United says:

    i like in new york but having to go all the way to new jersey to support a energy drink team not im my city about a hour away is not worth it. i feel like going to a away game idk how you do it.

    but that aside i saw the game and i thought fire would have this game. despite parity i see fire as a (by mls standards) a super club and san jose a minority club. but i did see few things wrong for fire i thought they should have won the game. but i think my dc united did much worse than fire. but oh well. but now that mls season is on i look forward to every weekend.

    • bigvic says:

      even if they get theirry henry (one of the best players in the world), to go all that way and cheer for that horrible team name? no way! What do you take me for, a knowledgeable soccer fan?

  2. eplnfl says:

    DC,

    I feel the same way about the MLS. Yet I am a Fire fan and have to be disappointed. You can argue they could be undefeated but the fact is they have no wins. While they control the play they can not score. The Fire essentially employ 5 mid-fielders and this leaves 3 defenders exposed at times. Most of the ball movement up field is on the flanks. So far no results.

    The big news from Chicago last night has to be the crowd. 20,000 was a record opener. The weather was fabulous in Chicago and a lot of people may say not but we had terrible weather last year for most home games. I simply froze at last years opener. A lot of people were showing up for the first time last night or where marginal fans, the on the field display has to hurt. A win next week is necessary from a fan following point of view. The Fire and soccer for that matter have had a lot of favorable free media recently from a top newspaper writer and a radio host. It will go to waste if fans can’t see a win.

    Go Fire

  3. eplnfl says:

    Important update for Fire fans. They stream audio of the matches over Ustream. It’s a start!

  4. Flex Buffchest says:

    I wouldn’t worry about it too much Fire fans. It’s still the start of the season. Chicago will find their bearings. Deep down they are a great team and will start posting some wins. Busch being let go seems like it kind of halted the team a little bit though.

  5. Dan says:

    I was at the stadium with my two young sons last night. There was a record crowd (almost 21,000 people), great weather, an overall superb atmosphere. But, with the exception of a tireless, at times brilliant Nyarko, the Chicago Fire put on an uninspiring, mediocre performance against a more pragmatic opponent. Despite all that, the hosts could have easily won the game 3-2 if they would have simply converted the opportunities they created. There will be no loss of fan base anytime soon, but I agree that those wonderful supporters chanting without interruption for 90 minutes deserve a win in the next home game!

  6. eplnfl says:

    Dan:

    I think everyone there feels the same that the Fire should of came away with a 3-2 win. Nyarko was excellent but he like the rest of the team can’t seem to finish. The offense seems to allow Nyarko and others who operate on the wing a lot of room but SJ would not let John or McBride a lot chances in the middle. The Fire did get chances early but missed, especially John.

    The Fire fan base is rock hard. What worries me is the first timers that made it to the park on Saturday. Will they be back, lets hope so. Hope to see you soon in Bridgeview.

  7. James says:

    The Fire made a series of defensive lapses in the last 20 minutes of the game that resulted in a well taken goal.

    Ward gave away a corner with a poor header back to the keeper and the Quakes were able to push up and press. Ward then made a horrible mistake of trying to mark Opera on the back side and was easily beaten when Convey put the ball in. The play was textbook perfect.

    San Jose had some good stops that you don’t see every day, but the game looked especially lopsided because of Fire’s domination of the midfield. The Earthquakes don’t have good center mids and so you’re going to see them winning games the way they did in Chicago: Coming up with big defensive stops and then scoring against the run of play.

  8. eplnfl says:

    From where I was seated it appeared that SJ really packed the middle. The Fire had the flanks to run up and down with and controlled the ball as we saw but couldn’t score. They shut down the Fire’s attempt to score from the middle of the field. As a defensive strategy it worked well but except for two huge mistakes one of which you describe so well the Fire should of had the win.

    Should of and could of however means nothing.

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