After attending Chicago Fire games regularly since 2004, in 2015, I decided to take the plunge and run for the Director of Communications position for Section 8 Chicago (S8C); I ended up holding the position for two years. As luck may have it, those two years (2015-16) the Chicago Fire was the worst team in the league. Yep, both years. Bottom. Of. The. Table.
As a board member for S8C, my daily routine consisted of producing social media content that would encourage support of the team. A goal of ours was to stress the importance of getting into the stadium early to cheer on the Fire (#FirstInLastOut), and of course, we also wanted to expand our supporters’ community.
It was a challenge to get regular, long-time supporters to games, let alone new fans. “Hey, come to a Fire game, statistically, it’s unlikely that they’ll win.” It was a melancholy time for me. Fans argued. Stands were empty. Supporters’ culture faded. Two years in a row, the Chicago Fire finished in last-place earning them the honors of the ISC Wooden Spoon.
As a supporter, it was frustrating and often heartbreaking to see the decline of the team, but the 2015-16 seasons took suffering to a different level. Somehow, even with love for the Men in Red in my heart, the team grew more agonizing to watch.
So what exactly is the Wooden Spoon that I speak of, and why did I (and other Fire fans) learn to embrace it?
When your team finishes last place in the league two years in a row, you can either sulk endlessly or embrace it. And don’t get me wrong, we did sulk. We cried. We complained. We were bitter. But in the end, we continued to love the Fire, and we even learned to love our wooden spoon too.
The spoon was kind of a long term process if you wanna talk about it’s conception. It was first decided at the ISC in Chicago, so January 2016, that there needed to be a league wide trophy to shame the worst team. Since the ISC is the overarching organization that administrates the Supporters Shield it made sense that they will also run the Wooden Spoon. It was decided Section 8 Chicago would make it as we won the wooden spoon that year. Sadly, it would be a long process as we would also win the spoon the following year as well. The reason it was decided this needed to happen is we felt that the league didn’t do enough to punish or shame the failures in the league. Pro/rel does that automatically for most leagues and in most leagues the losing team gets significantly less money. In MLS you are rewarded for failure, at least monetarily by the league. The spoon was our small way of putting pressure on a failing organization.
For some reason it was put on me to make the trophy, with the deadline of having it ready by the next ISC in Atlanta. I definitely stalled on it a bit and we tried many many different designs before we settled on the current iteration. I started work on the final design in November 2016, but I don’t think it was actually finished until the week before the 2017 ISC in late January. It is made of 90% plywood, wood glue, malort and hatred. Seriously, the woodworking is absolutely garbage, but that is kinda the point. I did my worst, in a very literal sense.
Who should win the Wooden Spoon?
Personally, I’m hoping for LA, as this year is already so backwards. That would just be the most backwards thing possible. Also, I want a fanbase that will properly shame their front office with it – that is the whole point. I think D.C. and Colorado will laugh it off and take it in stride. LA would HATE having this thing.
In Rolfe’s tenure with MLS, I was able to establish two amusing interactions with him:
The first time I met Rolfe was at a team Meet & Greet event. I was young (25) and awkward. Rolfe was a rookie and meeting fans was unfamiliar for him. I approached Rolfe not knowing what to say, “You’re my new favorite player.” He responded by staring at me blankly.
At the Chicago Fire’s 20th Anniversary party this year, I had the opportunity to chat briefly with Chris. I reminded him that he, along with DaMarcus Beasley, are my two favorite Fire players of all-time. I explained that I had finally found my third favorite Fire player, and I asked him to guess who it could be. In less than thirty seconds, he responded, “Michael de Leeuw?” And so, my admiration for Rolfe grew.
Seems like yesterday that it was 2005 and we were two first year pro’s sitting in a hot tub in Glasgow realizing that we had just played for our USMNT. We chatted about how 12 months earlier we never expected to play professionally let alone for @ussoccer. Was an honor, pal. https://t.co/FpiaXHCI9H
I’ve had some cool talks with Chris over the years, but one of my favorite memories will always be going up to Ohare to surprise him w @Section8Chicago supporters when he re-signed in 2012. What a great day. #cf97
Without question, Rolfe has created countless memories with those who knew or supported him during his playing days. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors. He will always have a home in Chicago.
A collaboration by official reporters of MLSFemale @MLSFemale
With Major League Soccer, there is no greater prize than the MLS Cup. Twelve teams, 6 from each conference, are vying for the chance to lift the ultimate prize of the league’s 22nd season. Here’s a quick rundown from our MLSFemale squad:
Toronto FC: AND NOW YOU’RE GUNNA BELIEVE US, we’ve gone and won the league! Suffice it to say the city of Toronto is over the moon with our accomplishments this season and we are looking forward to what we hope is a great playoff run. Michael Bradley succinctly put our season in summation by saying “…we went after every game from 1 to 34 like it was the only thing that mattered.” (source)
I think they can be proud that they never really wavered on that goal and it paid off. As a member of the Kings in the North, one of the official protectors of the Supporters’ Shield during it’s stay in Toronto, I look forward to spending some time up close and personal with it.
Our playoff future looks bright; one is left hoping that we take that same winning mentality into the playoffs and consider every opponent and every game with care. Finishing off the regular season at Atlanta was also a good test for us to end on. Fresh to the league, they were the one team I felt we hadn’t had a proper chance to sound out back in April. Having seen their house and how they feel about our players (your hate makes them strong, our love makes them unstoppable), I now feel confident that Toronto FC has the arsenal to make a successful playoff run. And as Giovinco has shown, this team is ready for whatever is thrown at them. So bring on our second (okay fine, third) go at it, we’re here to win it all!
*NYCFC: Not gonna lie: this team gets measurably better every year. With head coach Patrick Vieira, the Pigeons have made it to their 1st MLS post season in style, with a bye for the knockout round. Legend David Villa and newcomer Jack Harrison, as well as the rest of the squad, are going to face their first opponents well rested and ready for a run. Just how far can the boys in blue go their first time out?
Chicago Fire: Nine months ago Fire fans were excited for the club’s new signings– with Dax McCarty, Juninho, Niko, and Bastian Schweinsteiger, certainly the Men in Red wouldn’t finish last place again – would they?
By early June, fans knew that not only were the Chicago Fire going to dig themselves out from the bottom of the table, but the likelihood that they would be playoff contenders looked promising.
David Accam, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, amongst others have been battling injuries, just returned from injury, or will return from injury for the playoffs. Is the squad recovering at the appropriate time? With key players on the bench over the last couple of months, other players gained experience – this will certainly help strengthen roster options when Veljko Paunovic looks to his bench for substitution options.
Who will get the nod for the goalkeeper position? Matt Lampson, who has been with the team since February of 2016 and a total of 34 games played for the Fire? Or will Richard Sanchez start in net after only recently signing with the Fire?
We supporters are excited for the playoffs, for the opportunities that lie ahead, and for a home game, but we’re also realistic, especially after the last two unfortunate seasons.
Atlanta United: Well, here we are…The new kids in the league are in the playoffs. A 4th place finish to the regular season is better than where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season. This gives us home field advantage for Thursday’s knockout round game – and home field advantage in Mercedes-Benz Stadium could be significant. We’ve also won both games against Columbus (#SaveTheCrew!) earlier this season – although we did lose to them in the preseason Carolina Challenge Cup in February.
This team is much stronger now. They’ve now had an entire season to get to know each other. We have a solid starting lineup – even with a few subs because of injuries. And with over 70,000 people expected at the game on Thursday to cheer them on, I think Atlanta United has a really good chance at hoisting that cup in December.
The boys are ready for this. Atlanta is ready for this.
Columbus Crew:In the middle of the season, the Crew was struggling and looked unlikely to make the playoffs, but Berhalter seems to have the magic touch with his team at the end of the season.The tie against NYCFC took the Crew’s unbeaten streak to 10.It kept the team in the 5th spot while a win could’ve put them in 2nd place.
The team is dealing with a lot of distractions with a fan base who passionately loves them and is distraught that an owner would take them away.(#savethecrew)However, if the team can keep their form and absorb the passion the fans are showing them, they actually have a chance against Atlanta.Although, it will be a tough away game.The fans really need them to win, so we have a home playoff game to show how much we love the players.
New York Red Bulls: Whew! Just made it in under the wire. But RBNY is in the playoffs for the 8th season in a row. Always the bridesmaid, RBNY is the only MLS 1.0 team (originally the NY/NJ Metrostars) never to lift the MLS Cup. Coach Jesse Marsch has said that the team has been the favorite during the playoffs to no avail and that it’s time to be underdog.
I’m expecting a solid performance from Tyler Adams and the rest of the back line as well as more attacking from Daniel Royer. Defender Aurelien Collin has been working his way back to full health, and Jesse hopes to be able to bring him back into the 18. Dax McCarty and the Chicago Fire are the first obstacle in the knockout round, and another edition of the Hudson River Derby is practically guaranteed after that. It won’t be easy, but nothing worth having ever is. Fight Together.
Portland Timbers: It is not an overstatement to say that for the Timbers this Sunday’s game was the most important game of the year up to this point. The Cascadia Cup was on the line, as was the chance to win the conference and a first round bye.
With a Portland win, they have won the West and a first round bye. They also take back the Cascadia Cup, the coveted supporter-owned trophy awarded to whichever northwest team has the best finish among the three Cascadia-area squads. If Portland had tied or lost, Seattle would have taken the Cup, and Portland would almost certainly have dropped to third or fourth place, hosting a midweek knockout round game.
As I expected, Attinella remained in goal, with Vytas and Powell on the wings, and Mattocks up top as we wait for Fanendo Adi to be match fit. And with PTFC’s Mattocks being a former Whitecaps player there was plenty of opportunity for a knife-twisting match finish as he gave us the go-ahead goal to seal the deal. Now we wait to see who makes it out of the knockout round.
Seattle Sounders: It is finally time to defend our cup.This year has been such an up and down year.There are days where we look like the team from last year’s run.And then there are games where we look like a team that hasn’t even played together before.
The game against FC Dallas gives me hope that maybe we are turning a corner.With a win on Sunday gives us a much needed bye.This will give the team time to heal up.I can’t wait for this run at the MLS cup.I really hope the top team in the East loses so we can host the cup this year!!
Vancouver Whitecaps: The Whitecaps were able to pull themselves above the red line in a very decisive way, landing themselves in 3rd place in the Western conference after flirting with the top spot for a hot minute. They will meet the San Jose Earthquakes in the knockout round at home in Vancouver. This is a decided advantage for the Whitecaps, as BC Place has been a fortress for the team this season.
*Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo played VERY well at home this year, giving up only one game at home at BBVA during the regular season. And they have to be looking forward to the opportunity to take on Sporting KC again, having just beaten them at home less than two weeks ago and drawing them in Kansas City shortly thereafter. If they manage to pull it off, their next opponent will be one of the top two finishers in the West, Portland or Seattle.
Sporting KC: I am not pleased with how this season ended, and I am not pleased that Sporting fell from 1st to 5th in the West over the last third of the season. If we’re going to make it anywhere in the playoffs we have to do one thing…score goals. It seems like that should be pretty easy, but obviously it’s not since SKC scored just 3 goals in their last 5 games.
If the Sporting team from the beginning of the season comes back then we could be in good shape, but the run will be hard since we have no home field advantage. Hopefully, with this being the third game against Houston in a two week span we’ll have them figured out. Sporting, don’t make this city regret all the energy you put into the US Open Cup. We need some of that magic for the playoffs.
*San Jose Earthquakes: The Quakes had a wild finish to the regular season, with the winning goal coming three minutes into stoppage time against expansion side Minnesota United. Now they travel to Canada on only three days rest for a single game elimination round. They may still manage the upset against a Whitecaps squad that is struggling to put games away at precisely the wrong time in the season.
If San Jose can pull it off, they will face Portland in a conference semifinal, a team they’ve beaten at home twice during the regular season.
(Teams marked with a * do not have an official reporter from MLSFemale. If you support any of these teams, find your inner reporter and contact us!)
Rock Against Racism – Chicago Fire(RAR-CF) is a Chicago Fire supporter driven group that is against racism and in support of diversity and inclusion. Joel Piktel and Alfredo Gomez have organized RAR for the last six years. Naturally, when they asked me to be involved with the event two years ago, I couldn’t say no. In addition to rocking out against racism, the event has become empowering for women too. I mention this because I’m sharing this via MLSFemale, and I couldn’t be prouder of women’s involvement in Chicago Fire and MLS’ supporters’ culture.
In 2015, we had the fortune of USWNT and Chicago Red Stars player Christen Press join us. Press spoke honestly about her intolerance for racism, and the event raised $1000 dollars for Guardian Angels of Joliet.
This year Moria Dailey Nestmann joins the RAR-CF planning team. Dailey Nestmann will primarily be assisting on the PR side of things, but is looking forward to helping at any capacity that’s needed and being more involved in upcoming years. She explained that, “I love punk rock, love the Fire, and hate racism, so it seemed to be a natural progression (to get involved).” I, for one, am excited that Moria’s involved.
All local bands, hardcore outfit Anger headlines, with support from oi newcomers Fuerza Bruta, and Latino ska standbys, Tone Zone Skam. Proceeds from the event will be donated to Northern Illinois Justice For Our Neighbors, an organization which helps residents navigate and respond to complex immigration regulations. Their vital work is a necessity in these turbulent times and organizers are excited to lend their support to such an organization, as we believe diversity is a great strength in our communities.
Rock against Racism was founded to foster and celebrate an environment that is free from racism, sexism, homophobia, and hate of all kind at Toyota Park and within Fire fan culture. Rock Against Racism is a partnership between the Chicago Fire, Section 8 Chicago and Sector Latino, the Hispanic supporters group. This year features Tone Zone Skam a band comprised of active members of Sector Latino.
“Considering these troubled times, this year’s musical line-up is going to be the hardest hardcore line-up we have ever had,” says Rock Against Racism organizer Alfredo Gomez. Continuing the Fire and MLS’s staunch anti-racist stance, Rock Against Racism is a cornerstone event for the Fire community and a continued opportunity to showcase both established and up-and-coming members of Chicago’s diverse musical scene.
Sector Latino, Section 8 Chicago, and the Chicago Fire are excited to welcome supporters of Minnesota United to Toyota Park to enjoy the party and stand with us to give racism the red card. Fans and supporters who cannot attend can support Rock Against Racism online by donating here to support NIJFON’s legal services.
To stay involved and informed on RAR-CF, join the RAR-CF Facebook group. The primary function of the group is to further create an environment at Toyota Park that is free of racism, sexism, and homophobia. This is done through:
Educating ourselves and others on the topic
Sharing news and info specifically related to this topic in our community
Planning and organizing our annual event
This is also a place to archive photos/images related to the event
The 2017 MLS All-Star match is just around the corner. On Wednesday, August 2 the MLS All-Star team will face Real Madrid at Soldier Field. But you won’t want to miss out on the countless other soccer-related events happening in Chicago this weekend as we head into the main event on Wednesday.
Enjoy one or more of the awesome events below starting tomorrow, Saturday, July 29 up until the game on Wednesday. And I’m sure there will be an after party somewhere – if you have details on this, please share them with us. Until then, vamos!
Saturday, July 29, 2017
6:30PM: El Clasico – Real Madrid v. FC Barcelona at Pub 97
Per Major League Soccer La Liga Legends Christian Karembeu and Gaizka Mendieta will be in attendance and will be available for autographs and fan pictures.
Are Fire fans cautiously optimistic for the remainder of the season?
It’s well known throughout the league that the Chicago Fire finished at the very bottom of the table during the last two seasons. It was disappointing and even devastating for countless supporters whose livelihoods revolve around the team.
This season has been much different. While the first couple of months started off at a moderate pace, the Men in Red have now been undefeated in their last 11 MLS games. It’s a new feeling for Fire fans, a feeling that with even a little skepticism is being embraced by Chicago’s supporters.
I, for one, cannot remember the last time I felt such happiness when at the stadium. It’s hard to believe that the product the Fire have put on the field has been of such good quality after watching them suffer the last two seasons. The team has also managed to get points in games when they aren’t performing at their best. In 2015-16 that wasn’t fathomable.
Now, with eleven games unbeaten there is a feeling of euphoria in the air. But is it a temporary feeling? Even with optimismamongst Fire fans, there is still a fear that lingers from past seasons making many wonder, is this too good to be true? As fans, we hope for the best, but we know it is possible the team could fizzle and lose momentum in the second half of the season.
I was able to chat with other Fire fans, here’s what they had to say about the Fire’s eleven game unbeaten and their thoughts on the remainder of the season. (Year followed by fan’s name is the year they became a Fire fan.)
“I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop after being burned from the past couple seasons, I guess. If I can push that out of my mind, though, I am very excited for the postseason.” – Cam Robbins (2000)
“It’s hard to believe the team is unbeaten in eleven MLS matches. I definitely didn’t expect it, but it’s a welcome surprise. I love that there’s more attention on the Fire throughout the city and Chicago media; people are taking notice and watching this team. I’m hopeful for the remainder of the season that they can keep up the energy and keep playing exciting soccer. They’re so fun to watch!” – Sarah Sampson (1998)
“We don’t want this to be a peak, or a plateau. There is a desire, not just among fans, but among staff, for this to be the beginning of a growth rate in relevance, performance, and progress that we aim to sustain for a long time.” – Jacob Peters (2009)
“I can’t wait to see what happens next! I’m just so happy the guys are playing so well and in contention!” – Melissa Kellas (2006)
“I’m still waiting for the bottom to fall out, but still managing to enjoy watching winning soccer.” – Carrie (1999)
“It’s been a fairytale of a season so far, the boys have been connecting well and I hope it’ll continue on that way for the remainder.” – Staci Lorz (1998)
“I get the feeling that there are many fans that feel the same as I do: cautiously optimistic and happy to be where we are, but still mentally prepared for disappointment if the bottom should drop out. It’s happened to us too many times over the past few years, and that’s a tough mental framework to shake. Or maybe I’m just speaking from experience as a lifelong Cubs fan (Though if the 2017 Fire want to follow in the footsteps of the 2016 Cubs, that would be fantastic!).” – Alexis McAdams (2008)
“I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a season. I thought nothing would ever compare to the Fire teams from 1998-2000, and even though the Blanco years were fun to watch, this year’s team is probably the closest to that. I can see them winning it all. And in the 20th anniversary, it’ll be perfect!” – Violeta Santillan (1998)
“I hope they can keep their streak alive, and I hope that everyone involved with the club works to build not just to “win now” but for enduring success on the field, in the front office, and in the stands.” – Dan Martin (2006)
“I can’t get over the feeling that the Fire might still lose somehow in the last few minutes of the game, after getting used to that the past few seasons, but I am excited. I’m of the I’ll believe it when I see it mind when it comes to playoffs, but things are definitely looking up. It’s an exciting time, but there are still a lot of factors that don’t always make me as excited as I should be.” – Betsy Tomszak (2009)
“I’m going to enjoy the moment for now. There’s been too many years of disappointment to be all in. I only hope this feeling lasts until the Fire lift the Supporters Shield and MLS trophy at the end of the season. The excitement that this could actually happen is something to hold onto.” – June (2002)
“I’m trying not to inflate my hopes too much. I’ll call my mood at present as cautious optimism. I’m holding on to the pessimism just enough so that it doesn’t hurt too much if our luck turns. I’m thrilled by our current form, but very aware that there are key players that must be on the field to support our current style of play. If any combination of Niko, Basti, Polster, Dax, De leeuw were to be injured long-term we may see a very different result from the rest of the season. Fingers crossed they stay healthy.” – Carmen Norgaard
“It’s really exciting- but at the same time, the better they do and the longer their winning streak goes- the more pressure that gets added and the more nerve-wracking games can be! But overall, it’s just so great to see our team win and know that we love them no matter what!” – Hallie Moberg Brauer
“I’ve spent so many nights watching the Fire perform badly at 1am my time. I’m so proud of my men in red and how they’ve turned things around this season. I’m really excited to see what happens next. I’m so happy my first visit to Toyota Park, getting to meet many of the fantastic Fire family has coincided with a revival in the Fire’s fortunes.” – Emma Price (2013)
We’re unbeaten in 11 and less than 24 hours away from going for No. 12 💪