Tag Archives: Chicago Fire

How I grew to embrace the ISC Wooden Spoon, but I am so happy to see it go. Congrats, LA!

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Have you heard of the ISC (Independent Supporters’ Council) Wooden Spoon? Unfortunately, I’m all too familiar.

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 History of the ISC Wooden Spoon

via Daniel Giroux (Vice-Chair of S8C) on October 17, 2017

Conception of the spoon

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.

Trophy design

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.

With that said, Congratulations, LA Galaxy and fans. You are now the privileged winners of the ISC Wooden Spoon. Even last-place deserves a trophy.

Featured image courtesy: @nikhak

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Congratulations to Chris Rolfe: A Chicago Fire favorite retires from professional soccer

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

Today one of my all-time favorite Chicago Fire players, Chris Rolfe, has announced his retirement from professional soccer. By showcasing his passion for the game with his quick-footed talent, he allowed me to love the magic of the beautiful game more than I already did.

In Rolfe’s tenure with MLS, I was able to establish two amusing interactions with him:

2005:

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.

2017:

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.

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.

Featured image courtesy: tradingcarddb.com

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Sixth-annual Rock Against Racism – Chicago Fire Benefit Concert Takes Place August 26 at Toyota Park

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

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.

Nicole Lynn Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale

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.

Then in 2016, the annual RAR-CF event featured female-fronted bands including The Dyes, Atom Meets Bomb, and All Our Fans Are Cats. In addition to the regular awesome group of guys slinging beers at the annual RAR-CF event, Kelsey McClure formerly of New Belgium Brewing joined us in support against racism. Because of the impressive efforts of our community, $1,700 was raised for Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

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.

Nicole Lynn Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale

Now onto the main event…

The sixth-annual Rock Against Racism – Chicago Fire benefit concert is scheduled for this Saturday, August 26 at Toyota Park, directly preceding the league-topping Chicago Fire going head to head with Minnesota United, marking the new team’s first appearance on Fire turf.

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.

Nicole Lynn Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale

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:

  1. Educating ourselves and others on the topic
  2. Sharing news and info specifically related to this topic in our community
  3. Planning and organizing our annual event
  4. This is also a place to archive photos/images related to the event

Love Fire. Hate Racism.

Images courtesy: Alfredo Gomez, Nicole Hack, and Michael Nowicki

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nikhak

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A Team Win for the Crew

Hilary - Columbus Crew/mlsfemale
Official Columbus Crew Reporter

By Hilary // @hils4crew

Saturday, August 12: 3-1 Win

It was a fun night at Mapfre Stadium Saturday night as Columbus Crew SC defeated the Chicago Fire 3-1. It was a match that could have had a lot more goals in it, but both teams struggled to put away some chances. Crew SC rolled out the same line up they have been sticking with as of late a 3-5-2-1. Some highlights and thoughts on the match:

Crew SC came out attacking and pressuring the ball early. However, they did not keep possession for most of the game. This is one of the few times I don’t feel like the lack of possession hurt them. They may be figuring out how to make this formation successful for themselves.

In the 13’, the Fire scored. Our defense including Steffen just decided Michael deLeeuw was offside, but the refs didn’t agree. This is Soccer 101. Don’t stop playing until the whistle is blown. The Fire has been dominant with wins when scoring first, but not this time….

Artur continues to be the Energizer Bunny on the field. However, he may want to work on his shooting. Artur had many different opportunities to score a goal. The one mentioned above in the 2’, a header in the 5’, and not being able to finish a Manneh cross in the 11’.

Kekuta Manneh’s goal in the 18’ was an example of being at the right place at the right time and being able to finish that opportunity. Artur took a shot that deflected off a Fire defender right to Manneh who was able to put the ball in the back of the net.

The second goal in the 73’ was the result of vintage Francis cross to Meram. It is what got Francis to the All-Star Game in 2015, and it is why I believe Waylon should remain the starter on that side of the field. He also made a key defensive play in the 77’ when he took the ball from a Fire player who would have had an uncontested shot.

Meram scored our second goal, and it was a beauty. It was the 1,000 Crew SC goal. There were times during this game that I was in awe of his movements, and then there were times when I wondered why he was taking extra touches and losing the ball instead of passing it. If Pipa really does leave the Crew SC next year, Meram will have to fine-tune a bit to become the playmaker on this team. I’m confident he can do it.

Harrison Afful played just the first half working himself back from injury. This was a solid performance from Afful, which we haven’t seen a lot this season. It makes me wonder if he’s had lingering injuries for the majority of the season even when he was playing.

This was a must-win game for Crew SC. They are just above the playoff line, and they need to prove that they are a team to contend with. They did, and it was fun to watch.

Schweinsteiger was not as big of a factor in this game as I thought he would be. I don’t know if that’s because of where he was playing or how we played against him.

It was nice to see Matt Lampson back in Mapfre stadium. I really miss his “Off The Post” video clips when he was with Crew SC. If you have never seen them, you should go to YouTube and watch. One time he talked about his favorite song by Amy Grant. Watching those clips usually resulted in me laughing with tears streaming from my eyes. I’m not sure the PK call should have been one. I’ve watched replays, and I still can’t decide. Either way, it was a rough game for Lampson.

On a personal note, for those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I am a huge Ethan Finlay fan—my dog is even named after him. His trade to Minnesota broke my heart. While some felt it was time for him to go, I was hoping Ethan would be a Crew SC lifer. He gave 100% every time he was on the field and just exemplified to me what it meant to be a Crew SC player.

My only regret is that I never got to meet Ethan. I wish nothing but the best for Ethan Finlay, and I’ll be paying more attention to Minnesota from now on. I hope they realize what an amazing player and person they have on their team. My last 3 favorite players have either retired or been traded, so I’m trying not to have another favorite player. I don’t know if my heart can take it.

At the conclusion of this match, I couldn’t decide who should be Man of the Match. Overall, everyone played well. It was a team win. This is the way I believe a successful game should feel.

We play Orlando City this Saturday, and to continue our winning ways from this match, we need to continue to have all our players firing on all cylinders. I look forward to watching.

Featured image courtesy: @ColumbusCrewSC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @hils4crew

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MLS All-Star Festivities Chicago-Style

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

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

Watch Parties

  • 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.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

  • 5:00PM-7:00PM: MLS All-Star Game tailgate hosted by Section 8 Chicago

Through partnerships with BuckleDown Brewing, Half Acre Beer Company,Two Brothers, Lou Malnati’s, Honey Butter Fried Chicken, 5411 Empanadas, Portillo’s, The Globe Pub and a few surprise guests. S8C are happy to announce they will be providing complimentary food and beverages to any supporters that decide to stop by our location on the North West Side of the Adler Planetarium lot between 5:00-7:00 on August 2nd (leading up to the match itself).

A full calendar of MLS All-Star events can be found here and MLS events requiring a RSVP can be found here.

Featured image courtesy: mlssoccer.com

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nikhak

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Eleven Games Unbeaten

Nicole Hack - Chicago Fire/mlsfemale
Official Chicago Fire Reporter

By Nicole Hack // @nikhak

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 optimism amongst 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)

Read more about the Fire’s upcoming match against NYCFC tomorrow (Saturday, July 22 at 1PM CT) at Fire Confidential, The Athletic, and The Loop Sports.

Featured image courtesy: @ChicagoFire

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @nikhak

Check us out on instagram @mlsfemale