Like a lot of you, I attended Saturday night’s 2-2 draw at Soldier Field. I was there in the stands with my son, not in the press box, which gave me a pretty good feel of the job the club is doing at hosting matches on the lakefront, and how the team looks up close. Here are seven thoughts...
- Luka Stojanović is the real deal. He looked every bit the player that the Chicago Fire coaching staff was raving about before his injury at MLS is Back. If he stays healthy this season, that’s a massive boost to the team’s attack.
- Defensively, Boris Sekulić looked solid, refreshed, and ready to help the team. During the late run of games last fall, Sekulić looked like he was slowing down, and could wind up a bust of the signing. Having Jhon Espinoza breathing down his neck for playing time has probably helped, because “Boki” looked strong against the Revs.
- Why can’t the Fire ever seem to correctly mark a corner? Raphael Wicky is sticking with the zonal marking system that saw the team struggle to mark corners last season. Is the system the problem? Or is it the players? Either way, it needs to improve. You can’t gift a team a goal every match on a set piece and expect to make a playoff push. In this particular case, I’m not sure zonal marking was the problem. Adam Buksa just jumped over the Fire’s central defenders.
- As for the Revs’ second goal, which came off a throw in, it looked to me like Jonathan Bornstein just got beaten on a great play by Tajon Buchanan. It unfolded right in front of where I was sitting. Bornstein was there, he was battling hard, and he just got beaten. It happens, sometimes. Buchanan was able to find Gustavo Bou, and it was over.
- There were only 8,100 fans in the 61,500 seat stadium, but the atmosphere was great Saturday night. The club felt re-born. The atmosphere at SeatGeek Stadium was dead at the end, but Soldier Field felt big. Important. Fun. It felt like a stadium where you could bring a friend, and they’d be hooked. The club did a great job with the match production—the scoreboards looked sharp, the announcers were on-point, and the music served its purpose without being too over the top. The crowd noise was real, and it was loud. Club employees were everywhere, and were very helpful and friendly. The flag giveaways were cool, and the letter from Joe Mansueto was a classy touch. He continues to prove he’s the best sports owner in the city, if not in all of sports.
- My only complaint—many of the Monterrey Security employees seemed at best disinterested and at worst downright rude and completely untrained. Getting parked and into the stadium was a giant struggle, especially parking in the North Garage. Some advice: give yourself plenty of time if you’re going to a match this season. A lot of fans were still walking in 15 minutes into the game.
- One of the great changes this season was seeing the Ring of Fire reinstalled in the stadium. With DaMarcus Beasley in attendance on Saturday, it might have been the perfect time to add his name to the list. To me, “Beas” is a no-brainer for the honor. He’s one of the best American players of all time, and an even better guy. He even once played for the Fire immediately after playing for the USMNT at Soldier Field. That, alone, should be worth the honor. Let’s make it happen. Let’s get Beasley in the Ring of Fire.
Overall, great job by the club, and a solid performance by the team against a quality Revolution side. But, things could still be better. Fix the bugs—both on the field, and off—and this club will only continue to grow. It will happen. The Fire will be a big deal in Chicago.