Being a sports fan can be soul crushing. Supporting a team, especially when they’re terrible, can leave you wondering why you’re squandering your time, your money, and most importantly, your mental energy. Chicago Fire fans know this all too well.
But, every once in a while, there’s a sporting result so fun, so enjoyable, that it hits your brain immediately when you wake up the following morning. Did that really happen last night? Was Jonathan Bornstein seriously playing the drums with Sector Latino?
Yes. That happened. The Fire whipped Atlanta United 3-0 on Saturday at Soldier Field. Álvaro Medrán was magnificent as he bossed the midfield, and Ignacio Aliseda’s two goal, one assist breakthrough performance proved he can be more than just potential. The club handed out 10,000 patches with the bright new crest, Arlo White wrapped his four game run as Fire commentator with a win, and the Fire proved, for a moment, they can be fun again.
It’s clear all those losses had many Fire players and coaches carrying a huge weight on their shoulders. You can see the relief on Aliseda’s face in the brilliant photo taken by Fire photographer Erika Mariscal immediately after his first goal. Jonny B’s drumming performance—a fantastic gesture from a class act that will be remembered for a long, long time—felt like an explosion of joy after a season of frustration.
Then, after the game, came word the Fire’s U-19 Academy team won the MLS Next National Championship off an 80th minute header from Missael Rodriguez, who also won the Golden Boot. It’s an amazing accomplishment on its own, but it’s even bigger when you consider they did it without a bunch of guys the Fire have already signed to the first team. The future is bright.
¡Campeones campeones ole ole ole!— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) July 4, 2021
There are still plenty of issues to solve. Robert Berić worked hard, and his run created space on Przemyslaw Frankowski’s second half goal, but his scoreless drought continues. Gastón Giménez and Francisco Calvo will be back—will Raphael Wicky feel obligated to play them, considering the best performance of the season happened when they were gone? And, yes, that was essentially an Atlanta United B team, and a much better Orlando City team is coming to Soldier Field on Wednesday.
Progress is never a straight line. There are always stops and starts. But, the win over Atlanta—the Fire’s second straight three goal performance—showed there might just be something here, even if it’s not complete. Wicky’s switch to a 3-5-2 has injected life into the team, and the effort from the players proves they’re still buying in to what he’s preaching. They have not quit on him.
“At the end of the day, I told them, be happy tonight and proud of what they’ve done tonight because it’s not an easy situation,” Wicky said after the match. “But then we have to keep working. Tomorrow, we go back to work and we prepare for Wednesday.”
Maybe we’ll look back and see this week as the point the Fire finally turned a corner. Or, maybe this was just an anomaly. Either way, it sure was fun, even for a moment.