Toyota Park erupted in the 85th minute once Mike Magee bagged his first goal in front of the home crowd. The local boy returned, along with original Fire member Bakary Soumare, who helped play a big role in keeping a clean sheet. Yes, it was against a lowly DC United squad who only mustered one true attempt on goal. That shouldn’t matter however. Think bigger picture. A striker, who looked like he could score all game long, actually scored. The back line finally looked anything but makeshift. A lot has been made by fans and press alike over the lack of front office transparency. Just who exactly was responsible for the Magee and Soumare hauls? Regardless of who did most of the research, bargaining, phone calls, etc, it became obvious to me that club owner Andrew Hauptman not only gave his blessing, but might play a bigger day to day role in operations than we give him credit for.
Prior to Sunday’s game against United, the Fire held a tailgate for season ticket holders. For the most part it was largely uneventful, aside from some good hotdogs and a number of local mascots, which still at my age, tend to creep me out just a tad. It was then announced that Andrew Hauptman himself was there and was going to draw names for some raffle prizes. I had never seen the man in person, and my first impression was that he totally fit the bill of a California "dude." No, he wasn’t decked out in surfer clothes, but he struck me as the type of wealthy, west coast, self-made millionaire who would buy a sports team he didn’t really care for, just to bring it up in his social circles and as an investment he’d hope to cash in on at a later date. This story just goes to show how looks can be deceiving and precisely why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
When he was making the rounds, Hauptman was thrown a comment or a question regarding the newly acquired Mike Magee. I couldn’t make out what is was, but I was expecting a cookie cutter response such as: "Mike’s a top player and we’re happy to have him on the team." Something you would often hear at a press conference. His actual response was something more along the lines of "He’ll [Magee] actually be starting up front tonight with Chris." This took me a bit by surprise and conjured up images of Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson. I then realized that Hauptman actually does keep a dialogue with Frank Klopas on team selection and perhaps even strategy, although at a much more hands off approach than the aforementioned Paulson.
Perhaps it was Hauptman that made sure a trade involving Robbie Rodgers would only go through if a player the caliber of Magee was shipped to Chicago. With Soumare, it was more cut and dry, and easy business for a club in need of a position, and player seeking playing time back home. At half time during Sunday’s game Andrew Hauptman stated his intentions during the transfer window. What sticks out the most from the press conference was the little peak he gave at behind-closed-doors dealings. "There are players -- I see the list that’s being evaluated literally every single day. They’re real and [have] some real quality and hopefully they’ll get something done," said Hauptman. This tells me he has, and actively seeks knowledge of transfer targets but leaves it to the likes of Javier Leon to make the actual deals.
What I’ve gathered from this past weekend is that the Chicago Fire just might have an owner who cares more than we’ve ever given him credit for. He clearly supports finding the best players available, and does not enjoy losing. If you choose to remain skeptical, I don’t blame you. As a matter of fact, I applaud you. Concerns still exist over why Hauptman doesn’t live in Chicago, if he attends many Fire games, and just what his overall plan for the club is. Better judgment can be made after the summer transfer window comes and goes. After all, winning is multi-faceted. Yes it does satisfy his appetite to win, and to build a successful product. But who’s to say this isn’t some type of ten year plan to grow the Fire into a championship team only to flip them for a profit to a new owner?
I, on the other hand, take the more positive road in this situation. I believe that regardless of his long term intentions, Andrew Hauptman wants what is best for the Chicago Fire franchise. Winning is the name of the game. To semi-borrow from a film about a caped crusader, he’s perhaps the owner that Fire fans need, but not the owner that they deserve…not yet at least. There are big things on the horizon, and little by little, the ownership and front office seem more willing to let the fan base be privy to it.
Stand up Chicago Fire fans. After the coming transfer window, we can be set for yet another playoff run. Be excited. If you choose not to be, I admire your reservations all the same. But let's get behind this team and give them that push they need.