On a whim, I hit up Chicago Fire II’s inaugural home match against Columbus Crew 2 last night at SeatGeek Stadium. I ditched the media credential and went as a fan with my two sons—ages 11 and 6—and despite the Fire’s 1-0 loss, we had a great time.
The Matchday Experience
As advertised, parking and attendance were both free. I pulled up, parked right in front, and walked in the clearly marked gate. The Fire had a merch truck on hand at the entrance gate, but that was the only place were you could spend any money at all. Fans were allowed to bring in their own snacks and sealed (non-alcohlic) drinks, and plenty did.
Inside, everyone was directed to sit anywhere in the three sections at midfield right behind the player benches. It sort of felt like a cross between a U.S. Open Cup match, and a youth game. Plenty of players’ parents were on hand, cheering on their kids like they have since they were little, which was a great touch. In the second half, the crowd got pretty boisterous when a couple bad calls went against the Fire, especially one where Victor Bezerra was shoved out of bounds right in front of the Fire’s bench, but was somehow called for the foul himself.
On the Pitch
Fire II is a weird animal. Several of the players are guys from the first team who need minutes, but the rest of the team is made up of dedicated players signed to the II team, with some Academy players sprinkled in. Because of that, the team felt disjointed for much of the match, hoofing long balls to Chinonso Offor, rather than regularly building up through midfield. For this team to play well, the Fire will need a top-down strategy starting with first team head coach Ezra Hendrickson. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the II team guys, who train separately with Ludovic Taillandier and Patrick Nyarko, to be able to mesh with the first team guys on any given night. The II team needs to play just like the first team. I get the sense that everyone knows this, though, and it will come with time. I noticed Ezra was up in a box with Georg Heitz and several others looking on.
The starting XI looked like this: Chris Brady, Andre Reynolds II, Carlos Terán, Kendall Burks, Charlie Ostrem, Javier Casas, Jr., Matteo Kidd, Alex Monis, Sergio Oregel, Jr., Missael Rodriguez, Chinonso Offor. Terán, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, was subbed off after a pre-determined 30 minutes to help him work back to match fitness. Ostrem was quite good on the night, and seems like someone the Fire’s first team could rely on to step in at right back if necessary. Oregel was strong, too, but the team’s tactics meant he didn’t get the ball as much as he should have.
Brady had one bad moment—getting caught with the ball at his feet on a press which resulted in Columbus’ lone goal—but other than that he was solid, making plays to keep the Fire in the match for much of the night. He had a particularly great, point blank save in the second half after a Columbus’ player flicked up the ball and fired at goal near the six yard box.
The Fire couldn’t answer, and that lone goal proved good enough for Crew 2 to take all three points.
Go to a Game
I could see the Fire deciding to charge money for II games next season, but for now these matches are completely free, and are well worth your time to check out. The guys would no doubt love your support, and the intimate atmosphere allows you to hear every shout, complaint, foul, gripe with the ref—all of it.
If you’re interested, the Fire host Rochester NY FC on Sunday, April 10 at 2:30.