Chicago Fire soccer club turned 15 on Monday and marked the special occasion by gathering about 500 fans, families, former and current players, and media at the Chicago History Museum.
The club celebrated not only reaching a milestone but also helping make soccer a dominant sport in Chicago. One person who is most excited about the dominance is the current head coach of the Fire Frank Klopas. “I came from Greece and could not see one kid playing soccer in the park,” Klopas said. “Now, it’s different.”
Klopas promised he and his team will do their best to win the Major League Soccer trophy after making the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They beat New York Red Bulls 2-0 on Saturday and are second in the Eastern Conference. The top team, Kansas City, finished in a 1-1 tie against Columbus.
Although current players were among the guests, the night was clearly all about the former legendary players of Chicago Fire. Peter Nowak, Chris Adams, Hristo Stoichkov, Diego Gutierrez and Brian McBride were in the room. They are among the Top 15 best Chicago Fire players of all time voted anonymously by former players, fans, administration and media related to the club. They are Peter Nowak, Chris Armas, Lubos Kubik, Frank Klopas, Jesse Marsch, Hristo Stoichkov, Diego Gutierrez, Peter Wilt, Brian McBride, Kelly Gray, Evan Whitfield, Dasan Robinson, Zach Thornton and Ante Razov, according to the anniversary’s website.
In a celebratory atmosphere with music by the Souls Sisters and from the 60’s in general, people chatted about old times, some even danced. On the right of the room, a huge screen was showing the 1998 MLS Cup final, which Chicago Fire won 2-0 against D.C. United – the only MLS Cup the Fire has. Right next to it, 15 signed jerseys were on display –with the names of the 15 legendary players honored at the ceremony.
In its 15 years in the MLS, Chicago Fire has won one MLS Cup, four US Open Cups, one Supporter’s Shield and they have made the playoffs 11 times. Chicago Fire will also always be the only team to have won the Eastern, Western and Central conference of MLS. The Central conferences was eliminated after the 2001 season.
In unison with the club’s official colors of red and white, women were wearing red dresses, blouses or even shoes; men respectfully marking the occasion by wearing red ties or a Chicago Fire scarf around their neck. A main attraction were the five metallic walls on which famous Chicago Fire scarfs were displayed. “Pride of Chicago,” “Dirty Old Town,” “Whiskey Brothers,” “Fire Till We Die.”
“Absolutely,” people said as they read through.
While people were waiting for the speeches to begin, they went around the room with stickers of the players’ photos on them collecting autographs.
The event was organized by the franchise’s fan club Section 8 Chicago, or S8C. As a statement by the fans was read out loud on the stage in which the fans guaranteed their support as long as the players give their best, Klopas and players said they will never give up and are honored to put the Fire jersey on.
In a symbolic gesture of transferring power to the current players, former players gave them what they called “the challenge coin.” One player, who has played with legends like Chris Adams and is still on the team is midfielder Logan Pause. He said he did not get a coin but he accepts the challenge. “It’s incredibly humbling to be here,” he said. “The joy for playing for the Fire is that it’s always a challenge.”
Pause said the team will now focus on the playoffs despite having two more games left until the end of the regular season. “We have to now push to get our highest game,” he said, “because anything can happen.
MLS games will resume on Oct. 17 and Oct. 20 because of the World Cup qualifying matches. The USMNT is playing Antigua & Barbuda away on Friday, Oct. 12, and Guatemala at home in Kansas City on Tuesday, Oct. 16.