The Chicago Fire opened Red Bull Arena in 2010. In 2011, the Men in Red had the 'honor' of opening Jeld-Wen Field in April and Livestrong Sporting Park in June. In the three away games, Chicago was outscored 5-2 and had two losses and one draw. I'm not a big fan of the Fire opening stadiums because the opposition brings their top game for the special event. Everyone from the fans, ball boys, hot dog vendors, and mascots for the home team are beyond pumped due to the manufactured occasion. Whereas other MLS teams might have caught New York, Portland, and Kansas City flat in their matches these past two seasons, there was zero chance Chicago was going to get a weakened opponent when opening the new digs. You can dismiss it as something that a team should just get over but when the Fire missed the playoffs by a matter of 3 points last year and they only got 1 out of 6 possible points in the away matches at Portland and Kansas City, it doesn't seem so minor now does it?
If anything, why not spread out who opens stadiums in MLS just in case there is an effect here? Why not base these openers more on natural geographic rivalries? Why not give the openers to the MLS Cup winner? Why not punish the worst team in MLS the previous season but sending them to the wolves? I can somewhat understand the Fire opening Kansas City's stadium but New York? Portland? And now if you can believe 98.5 Sports journalist Jeremy Filosa, it looks like Montreal too. The interesting tweet and question of the day after the break
Vacationing in FLA, ran into someone close to Impact, sources say #IMFC will face (CHI) Fire in home opener. #IMFC #MLS
Read it and weep. Now the one small caveat here is the Fire would not be playing the first MLS game in Montreal's permanent home of Saputo Stadium. The Impact will be playing at Olympic Stadium until the expansion of Saputo Stadium is complete. If Filosa has his facts straight here, Chicago and Montreal will clash on Saturday, March 17th, 2012.
That might actually be worse because after all March 17th will be the Impact's first ever MLS home game, Olympic Stadium has a larger capacity than Saputo Stadium, the Olympic Stadium's dome will hold more noise, and no one in MLS knows how Olympic Stadium's field will play. Saputo Stadium has actually been around since 2008 and is simply being expanded to meet MLS standards. I think the home opener at Olympic Stadium will be more intense than the Saputo Stadium opener and I certainly hope it won't actually be Chicago lacing up their cleats in Montreal this spring.
I've had my say though. What is your take? Do think there is an advantage for home games where new stadiums are opening or where a new club is starting? Or am I grossly exaggerating the negative impact here?