We are red and white (Whoooah)
We are red and white (Whoooah)
We are red and white, we’re the f***** dynamite!
The hype and excitement in Toyota Park before the match had even kicked off was incredible. Despite a crushing loss to FC Dallas last weekend, Chicago Fire supporters were in good voice as they waited for Blanco to lead out the Fire for one of their last home games of the season.
I had only been to the home of the Chicago Fire on two occasions prior to Thursday night, and on neither occasion was there an atmosphere like there was when the Fire hosted the LA Galaxy in what was a vital match for both sides.
The Galaxy, buoyed by their 5-2 romp past DC United over the weekend, were looking to continue their push for a playoff spot with just four regular season games remaining. Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire were hoping to end their recent slump and solidify their playoff spot.
The section behind the goal at the south side of the stadium is notorious for making a lot of noise during Fire games, but I was unaware of how tremendous of an atmosphere they created until I had experienced it firsthand. There wasn’t a quiet moment the entire match and by half-time I was already beginning to lose my voice. I participated in as many chants as possible, even the ones in Spanish.
VAMOS! La maquina roja...Esta noche…Tenemos que ganar...
For the Spanish illiterate, this chant translates to ‘We GO! It plots it red… This night… We have to win’… or something to that effect (after three years of learning Spanish I still struggle to understand it sometimes!).
The fans were still in good voice as the match got underway following a delayed kick-off.
With Chicago Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch standing between the posts at my end of the field, chants directed at the number one goalkeeper were inevitable.
Four more years, four more years, four more years…we want Busch, we want Busch, we want Busch!
The Fire started the match strongly and it wasn’t long before they grabbed the game’s opening goal. John Thorrington held the ball up for Chris Rolfe, who beat a couple of defenders before firing the ball into the lower left hand corner of the goal to give the Fire a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.
Fans across the stadium, especially in my section, went ballistic as soon as Rolfe’s shot hit the back of the net. After seeing our team be thrashed by FC Dallas last weekend, we were desperate to see the Fire redeem themselves tonight.
Our hopes took a major blow a few minutes before half-time, however, when Eddie Lewis got in front of his defender to flick Chris Klein’s cross inside the far post to level the scores at 1-1. Despite seeing the Fire’s lead cancelled out, nothing could dampen the atmosphere.
The second half began with the Fire searching for a goal and ten minutes after the restart Fire supporters went into ecstasy once again. Cuauhtemoc Blanco capitalized on a mix-up between Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Wicks and defender Troy Roberts, slotting the ball into an empty net from thirty yards out to give the Fire the lead for the second time in the match.
Clap, clap-clap, clap, clap-clap, clap-clap, clap…We love you Fi-re we do, we love you Fi-re, we do, we love you Fi-re, we do, Oh Fire we love you!
Every supporter in the stadium went ballistic after Blanco had given the Fire the lead, but little did they know, it was about to get even better. Two minutes later Gonzalo Segares’ through ball sent Chris Rolfe clear on goal and the Chicago Fire striker made no mistake, netting his second goal of the game.
With a two goal advantage and momentum on their side, everyone appeared confident the Fire would hold on for the win. Various chants echoed from my section, including one I couldn’t help but smile at.
Late last night while we were all in bed Miss O’Leary left a lantern in the shed…When the cow tipped it over she winked her eye and said “It will be a hot time in the old town tonight” FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!
Whoever said American soccer fans lacked passion? And the notion that MLS fans are not creative is complete nonsense in my opinion.
At random intervals during the match the entire fan section behind the goal would point to the east side of the stadium and yell, “East side, east side, east side, east side, east side,” until they had attained the east side of the stadium’s attention. The chant then went like this:
WHO’S THE BEST? -- FIRE!
WHOOO? -- FIRE!
WHOOO? -- FIRE, FIRE, FIRE!
The final whistle was met with loud cheers from all 20,156 people in the stadium, except for the Galaxy and David Beckham supporters, of course. Following the match and on the drive home I found myself reflecting on what had been a truly memorable experience. It’s not every night I get to go watch one of my favorite sports teams in action.
The experience also reminded me of how far US soccer has come in recent years. The passion and enthusiasm throughout Toyota Park was as good as any other professional sporting event I’ve ever been to, if not even better.
Watching the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on numerous outings was always an enjoyable occasion, but the atmosphere doesn’t compare with what I experienced in Toyota Park. Sitting near half court at the United Center watching the Chicago Bulls was also special, but it too didn’t compare with sitting, more like standing behind the goal at Toyota Park.
The Fire v. Galaxy match was an incredible experience and I felt inspired to share my experience with others. Seeing David Beckham wasn’t half as good as seeing the Fire stroll to a 3-1 win, but it was still special to see a player who once held a special place in my heart for his contributions for Manchester United.
I can hardly wait for the next time I have the opportunity to go watch the Chicago Fire or any MLS game for that matter. There is no feeling that can compare with knowing that you are, in a sense, a very small part of the progression of soccer in the United States.
So until the next Chicago Fire game rolls around, I will be doing whatever I can to continue to encourage the development of soccer in the United States.