SeatGeek Stadium has been the site of many pivotal moments in Fire history. From the 2006 US Open Cup triumph that represents the team’s last trophy to the 2013 Cup loss that led to the infamous editorial on the team website bashing supporters to the protests against the banning of the Sector Latino fan group, the arena witnessed the Fire’s decline from a power to a punchline.
So considering everything happening around the club, perhaps it’s fitting the franchise played its first meaningful match at the facility in exactly two years for Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory over New York City FC that ended a five-game winless streak. With seats being sold only on the east and north sides of the stadium, the Fire got second-half goals from Robert Beric and Federico Navarro in front of a lively announced crowd of 5,593.
“It felt good,” Beric said. “The stadium is nice. It’s a soccer stadium, I can say. We won the game, and now we [feel] good.”
The Fire haven’t had a lot of feel-good wins this season, but that’s just one issue around the club.
On the same day the Bears announced they’ve agreed to buy the site of Arlington International Racecourse for around $197 million, the Fire were forced out of their home for a night by their maybe-exiting roommates. Because no events can be held at Soldier Field within five days before a Bears game, the Fire had to return to the arena they called home from 2006-2019.
What a Bears move would mean to the Fire is unclear. Could Soldier Field be retrofitted to better suit the Fire? Would the Fire get better dates in the second half of seasons? Or would a Bears departure somehow hurt the Fire?
Answers to those questions are still years away, but the Fire did reap one tangible benefit Wednesday.
Three days removed from battling a poor grass surface, the Fire played on a proper field. And though the grass wasn’t always optimal during the Fire’s stay at SeatGeek and wasn’t perfect Wednesday, it was recently re-sodded and represented a significant upgrade from the poor conditions Sunday that led to more questions about whether Soldier Field can be the team’s long-term home.
Coach Raphael Wicky wouldn’t be drawn into comparing the playing surfaces of the two venues. What he wanted to focus on was the victory.
“I’m just really happy about the performance from the team from tonight,” Wicky said. “I think it was a well-deserved win.”
Under Wicky and sporting director Georg Heitz, wins like that haven’t come often enough, creating legitimate questions about their fitness for their jobs. A few more games like Wednesday would’ve quieted those queries, and maybe the victory showed the Fire could’ve been capable of more this year.
“We should’ve had more points with the quality we have, but the season is still not over,” defender Johan Kappelhof said. “We can still fix the season and climb, so we’re looking game-to-game and that’s our main focus, the next game.”