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The Cheap Seats: Southern Incursions

RJ offers another fan’s eye view of the Atlanta game

I was in a good mood coming into Saturday’s game against Atlanta United. The weather was gorgeous despite the creeping humidity and I get to see some good Chicago soccer. What else could one ask for?

A pre-match ritual of mine is stuffing myself silly before any game. Before heading down to Toyota Park, a friend and I stopped by Gabutto Burger located in Rolling Meadows, IL. It’s a burger joint with Japanese inspired flavors which is perfect for weeaboos like me who crave for some hamburgers but still urge for some Glorious Nippon. We got the teriyaki egg burger, fries, chicken wings and a strawberry calpico shake. Itadakimasu.

After a good meal, we headed down to the Rosemont CTA station to begin our trek down to Bridgeview. On the way down to the Clark/Lake station, the train stopped for a good 20 minutes at the Logan Square stop because the CTA gonna CTA. While we were waiting I decided to research the enemy for a bit. We all knew that this was going to be a tough game. Atlanta has been steamrolling the league lately. In the previous eight matches, they’ve only had one loss, one draw and scored 21 goals in the process. With that in mind, I wasn’t expecting much much at all from this game. During this time I was listening to a song called “Kouhaku Ouen V” by 765PRO ALL STARS and the lyrics contain a line that says, “Faito Faito Akagumi Faito,” which more or less translates too, “fight fight for the Red team.” That’s all I wanted from the Fire that night. Fight for your colors tonight and just don’t embarrass yourself.

The train started moving and soon and before we knew it we were at Clark/Lake ready to transfer to the Orange Line down to Midway which took about another 30 minutes. At Midway, we waited for our Pace bus to take us to Toyota Park which arrived fairly quick. As we were boarding the bus, someone commented, “it’s a beautiful day for a soccer game,” and it truly was - and no one from Atlanta could take that away from us.

We arrived at Toyota Park around 15 minutes prior to the first whistle and quickly found our spot on the Harlem End. There defending the goal for Atlanta was Brad Guzan who’s bald head that could rival Pep. Now whether he would be exposed by the end of the night would be a question for later.

Within a few minutes, I thought Atlanta was going to score courtesy of Josef Martinez. But Richard Sanchez managed to save the ball. Sanchez has really found his form lately and it was exciting to his growth as a player. Just a few minutes later, Nemanja Nikolic almost gave the Fire a lead but the ball couldn’t find the back of the net. Eight minutes in, and I knew that tonight was going to be entertaining. Then Elliot Collier had a shot at glory, but his shot ended up flying to the moon.

Throughout the first-half, Atlanta really looked off and I was hoping that the Fire would capitalize on this but the finishing was so poor. On the 32nd minute, Aleksandar Katai had to chance to score with a free-kick but like Collier before him, he launched it into the sky. Two minutes into injury time, Niko had a chance but was marked for off-sides.

It was the end of the first-half and it was time to the holy grail of all stadium food - the legendary ice cream nachos.

The line was long for this delicacy, and before my friend and I knew it, the second-half already started. Being the weirdo I am, I decided to stream the game on my phone while waiting in line. I found some dodgy stream that was rendered in 240p and as it was buffering I heard a crowd of boos ring out the stadium. Atlanta just scored. I turned around towards the pitch looking disappointed and just a few moments later, Martinez scored. Shortly after we ordered and as soon as we took the first bite into this masterpiece of culinary arts, Kevin Ellis scored. It was a gift from above I’ll tell you. Ice cream nachos and a goal. <insert 100% and OK sign emoji here>

As we were munching down out on the stands, the lads on the pitch kept applying the pressure but couldn’t break through. Katai had some chances but simply couldn’t finish. Johan Kappelhof, on the other hand, was holding down the back really well. He was my MOTM for the night.

As the game nears its end, five minutes of extra-time was added and I was still hoping for at least an equalizer but it never happened. For a brief moment, Atlanta looked like they were going to double their lead but Sanchez manages to pull off some heroics once again.

The soccer was entertaining but we left disappointed. Nothing that we haven’t experienced before, but as the weather gets better I also hope the results reflect that.