The Fire have an optics problem, and it has nothing to do with their maligned logo that will be going away soon.
Sunday’s 0-0 tie with Nashville SC in front of a season-high crowd of 15,915 was played on a Soldier Field grass surface with football markings more than visible. A day after Notre Dame beat Wisconsin, the game’s “Shamrock Series” logo was covered over with green spray paint but easily detectable, as were the schools’ colorful end zone designs.
Perhaps of more concern to the players was the condition of the grass field, which has been busy recently. Last Sunday, the Bears beat the Bengals at Soldier Field, Wednesday saw the Fire lose to New England and then the Notre Dame-Wisconsin game was played Saturday. And the field was clearly worse for wear, with divots and pock marks around the entire playing surface.
The Fire, however, are more than a soccer team. They’re a business trying to gain more customers in a crowded sports city. Games like Sunday are reminders they aren’t the primary tenants in their own home, a self-inflicted factor they have to overcome when they market their product.
Late in August, Fire president Ishwara Glassman Chrein addressed the issue when the Fire’s most recent home match was a day after a Bears game. She repeated that the Fire love playing at the stadium because of its amenities and location, and emphasized their relationship with Soldier Field management and the Chicago Park District.
“There’s no doubt it would be better if there weren’t the Bears logos on the stadium and the lines, but we knew that going into the deal,” Glassman Chrein said. “We knew that the Bears were going to be playing there. We all try to work well together.”
NOTE: The Fire honored the Chicago Sting on the 40th anniversary of their 1981 North American Soccer League Soccer Bowl ’81 championship. Fire players wore Sting t-shirts when they arrived at Soldier Field, and coach Raphael Wicky wore one during the match. Members of the Sting were also recognized at halftime and received warm applause from the fans.
“It’s a special day,” 1981 Sting defender Rudy Glenn said. “When you think about it 40 years later, we made history that evening and we’re still around, still thought about, which is pretty amazing. And it’s because of the fans like today. For them to even acknowledge us is just amazing.”