Last Saturday, a Sounders FC squad that was without Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans came from behind to defeat the Chicago Fire, 2-1, thanks to an own goal by Gonzalo Segares. It was the first time under Frank Klopas that the Fire had lost in a competitive match after scoring the first goal (28-1-7, including Wednesday’s match at Toronto FC).
The Fire also maintained their distinction as the only MLS team to never beat the Sounders since they came to MLS in 2009 (0-6-3 overall; 0-4-1 in Seattle including 2011 US Open Cup Final). It also marked yet another blown opportunity to gain ground on the Philadelphia Union, Houston Dynamo, and New England Revolution in a battle for the 4th and 5th playoff places in the Eastern Conference.
After the match, defender Bakary Soumare send a tweet to the Fire’s club reporter Jeff Crandall saying that he was f*** terrible at what he does after he honestly assessed Soumare’s 29th minute handball giving Seattle a penalty as ‘bad.’ And yes, Soumare did have a horrible match that night.
Afterwards, Soumare and Crandall met with Fire head coach Frank Klopas to “hash out their differences.” Nowhere was there anything regarding an apology from Soumare which should have happened.
This is the same Bakary Soumare who got shipped out in 2009 to Boulogne of France after scuffling with then-coach Denis Hamlett during halftime of a match in Houston. When he came over in a trade from Philadelphia in May, he initially improved the Fire’s backline, but has slumped lately and got a one-match ban after clashing with a New England trainer after a match.
Sadly, this is the latest in a series of misadventures with the Chicago Fire under Andrew Hauptman’s watch.
Back on August 21st, Chicago Fire Director of Communications Dan Lobring wrote an editorial denouncing fans who called him a “s****y hire”.
In the same article, he also cited fans who allegedly shouted obscenities to Fire owner Andrew Hauptman and front office staff and family during the Fire’s US Open Cup semifinal against DC United.
They lost 2-0 in a lackluster performance on August 7th–the same DC United they defeated 4-1 at Toyota Park just three weeks prior. Lobring had been on the job for just six months.
Admittedly, our initial instincts at Windy City Soccer was not to write anything until the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times picked up the story. The Tribune article has the Fire front office essentially doubling down on the editorial while Seth Gruen of the Sun-Times pointed out the lack of continuity in the front office among other things. The Fire have had four presidents during Hauptman’s tenure which began in late 2007 and four different coaches.
Later, I simply wrote what had transpired reserving opinion until after the Fire’s home match against Sporting Kansas City the following Sunday. The Fire did win that match, though Section 8 had black bunting at the top of their area and a banner with a quote from the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington: “Business as usual will not be accepted by the people of Chicago.”
It is from that quote in which I typed our response to the editorial. To cut a long story short, most of the recent moves by the Fire have been more reflective of not a team in the third largest market of America, but rather a team in the third tier of American soccer.
This ranges from the revolving door of front office personnel to virtually every designated player since Cuauhtemoc Blanco being a bust for the Fire. In fact, the last few DPs like Sherjill MacDonald (whom the Fire cut bait on) and Juan Luis Anangono can’t even get in the starting XI. The jury is still out on Arevalo Rios whom the early opinions of his play are positive.
It’s only now that the frustrations of the Fire faithful seem to be boiling over. This year’s 2-7-1 start and recent performances such as the one against DC in the Open Cup and listless performances at New England and just last Wednesday in Toronto have exacerbated manners.
The club is indeed in danger of missing the playoffs for the third time in four seasons and fans are truly frustrated. Add to that a lack of an English radio deal (which the Fire have never really had since their inception), a TV deal that the Fire have to pay for and has all the makings of a low-budget, in-house production, and barely getting copy in the local papers and mainstream media (apart from the editorial); you have a team that’s irrelevant in the eyes of the casual Chicago sports fan.
The Chicago Fire were once considered a model franchise in Major League Soccer and one was usually considered among the elite. But decisions ranging from questionable to outright rotten both by former owners AEG (i.e. unceremoniously dumping popular President Peter Wilt in 2005) and current owner Andrew Hauptman have greatly diminished the club’s stature.
It’s these kind of decisions that lead to breaking the trust between the club and the supporters. While most of Major League Soccer has made forward strides in terms of visibility and quality, the Fire seem to be going in the opposite direction.
Granted, there are other teams in MLS that are having their problems and the Fire can still turn things around and make the playoffs this season, but recent performances by the Fire make them look like a team that lacks any sense of urgency and a team that will continue to sink further into the abyss if they do miss the playoffs. Meanwhile, fans feeling already alienated will simply not come to Bridgeview because they’ll feel the Fire front office is not professional enough and doesn’t trust or care about their fans.
Like I said, when I usually write something for Prost Amerika, it’s because the Fire are in a sad state of affairs. This is no exception. Right now, the state of affairs with the Fire can hardly be sadder.