For all of the Fire’s off-field efforts to bolster the business side of the franchise, they have to be better on the field for that labor to really make an impact.
And Fire coach Raphael Wicky knows that.
“We are aware as coaches and as a team that, look, the first team is always the locomotive of the train,” Wicky said Wednesday. “We know that we are a very important piece of this club.”
Though both the business and soccer sides of the club have plenty of work to do, Saturday’s 3-0 win over Atlanta United won’t hurt.
Facing a shorthanded opponent, the Fire (2-7-2, eight points) got two first-half goals from Ignacio Aliseda and snapped a four-game winless streak. Aliseda also picked up the assist on Przemyslaw Frankowski’s second-half score, helping the Fire move off last place overall.
Saturday’s match was the Fire’s first home game of the year with no capacity restrictions, which allows for around 28,500 fans in the Soldier Field seating configuration the team uses. Before the match that drew an announced crowd of 14,898, the Fire unveiled Burnham Downs, a pre-game activation outside the southeast corner of the stadium that includes interactive games, food and drink options, and on Saturday a Q&A with announcers Arlo White, Tony Meola and Tyler Terens.
“The atmosphere is beautiful,” Aliseda said through a translator. “I love to play in this stadium. I love to play in front of people.”
Initiatives like the fan tailgate are worthwhile endeavors as the Fire try to reintroduce themselves to the Chicago landscape. But parties, well-received new logos and slick marketing can only go so far when the primary product is a team languishing in the lower reaches of Major League Soccer.
A few more games like Saturday would help.
“The club has done a great job in marketing and bringing the club back to the city in Soldier Field and doing a lot in social media and marketing, so they are doing a great job,” Wicky said. “But we know at the end of the day, it’s us on the field who have to deliver, who have to make people want to come back, and that’s only one way of doing that and that’s winning games and playing good football.”
Defender Boris Sekulic had a similar perspective. After last Saturday’s game against the Union, Sekulic was thankful for the fans that showed up after driving rains blanketed the area.
However, there’s one way to get more people into the building regardless of the weather.
“I’m from Europe. In Europe, if you lose eight from 10 games it’s a little bit different,” Sekulic said. “We feel [the fans’] support even when our results are bad [at] this moment. We cannot expect more people in the stadium until we start winning.”
NOTE: Captain Francisco Calvo is away on international duty with Costa Rica and did not play. Making his first start since May 8, Jonathan Bornstein served as the Fire captain in place of Calvo.