It’s “What if?” week here at SB Nation, where we’re looking back on some of the key turning points in our favorite teams’ histories. What if that one goal had gone in? Or, what if that player had never gotten injured? You get the idea. Today, we’re looking back at some massive moments for both the Chicago Red Stars at the Chicago Fire, to see what might have been.
What if Tierna Davidson hadn’t gotten hurt before the 2019 NWSL Championship?
Last season, the Chicago Red Stars finally broke through and made an NWSL Championship game, but in the days leading up to the match against the North Carolina Courage, defender Tierna Davidson injured her ankle, forcing her to miss the final. If Tierna hadn’t gotten hurt, would the Red Stars have won the title?
Maybe, but it’s doubtful. I don’t think it’s fair at all to blame Katie Naughton, who filled in for Davidson, for the Red Stars’ 4-0 loss to the Courage. It’s soccer, so it’s possible an early ball would have bounced differently and changed the game, but that Courage team was fantastic and probably still would have won the match.
What if the Fire had won the Jermaine Jones coin flip?
In 2014, Jermaine Jones was set to sign with the Fire after his stellar performance at the World Cup. But, the Revolution stepped in at the last minute, so MLS held a bizarre coin toss to determine which team got to sign him. New England won the flip, and Jones joined the Revs. The roaming midfielder spent 28 games there, moved west to Colorado for a few more matches, then finally joined the team he wanted to sign with in the first place, the LA Galaxy.
Jones would have improved the Fire during that era, but since it’s clear he wanted to move west to be with his family, it’s doubtful he would have stayed very long.
What if Tony Meola hadn’t had the game of his life in the 2000 MLS Cup Final?
This one’s simple. That 2000 Fire team was the best in club history to not win a title, and if Tony Meola had pulled a Tottenham and eaten some bad lasagna before the match, the Fire would have won their second MLS Cup in three seasons.
Instead, the legendary keeper had ten saves on the day, and the Wizards took won the match, and the title, 1-0.
What if Taylor Twellman hadn’t scored in the 2007 Eastern Conference Final?
I love Taylor Twellman as an announcer. I think he’s smart, and he’s bold—without being a blowhard. This is funny because I hated Twellman as a player. The two-sizes-too-small shirts always drove me nuts. But really, I think all that hate stemmed from his goal in the 2007 Eastern Conference Final, where he pulled off a bicycle kick in the 38th minute to keep the Fire out of MLS Cup that season. If the Fire had won that match, do they go on to beat Houston? And, if they managed to beat Houston, would winning the 2007 title had somehow slowed the decline that lasted for the next decade?
Probably not. But, it’s easy to blame Twellman.
What if Toyota Park was never built in Bridgeview? Where would the Fire and Red Stars be now?
This is a fun one to think about. in the mid-2000s, when every MLS team was looking for a soccer specific stadium, the Fire found a small village willing to help give them the stadium of their dreams.
We all know how that played out. The stadium was fine, but it was a massive headache to get there for people living in the city. The surrounding area never saw the boom in economic activity that was promised, the parking lot is still partially gravel to this day, and Bridgeview taxpayers got stuck paying for the stadium debt while local politicians raked in cash. Eventually, new Fire owner Joe Mansueto paid to get the club out of the lease agreement with Bridgeview.
But, what if the MLS and Fire hadn’t decided to move to the economically depressed, troubled village, and instead went elsewhere? It’s very possible they would have found a home in Rosemont. And yes, Rosemont has its own issues with corruption, but with far easier access to public transportation and lots of entertainment options in the area, I’ll bet the Fire would still be there, and the Red Stars eventually would have moved there, as well.
What if COVID-19 hadn’t delayed the Soldier Field Homecoming?
In a COVID-less world, the March 21 match against Atlanta United would have been rocking. I suspect it would have been close to a sellout, and the way the Fire were trending earlier this season, I believe it would have been a victory.
Of course, that would have spawned several more victories, and more sellouts, and the Fire would be in the driver’s seat for the Supporters Shield right now after rattling off yet another home victory against Miami this past weekend.
Or, something like that.
What’s your biggest “what if?” moment in Chicago soccer history? Let us know in the comments!