Meet Our New Foes: Chicago Fire

 

This is the seventh part of a series in which we introduce Orlando City fans to the teams our Lions will be facing in 2015 when the team starts play in Major League Soccer. Today we take a look at the Chicago Fire.

Telling us about Chicago is Sean Spence, editor-in-chief at SB Nation’s Fire blog, Hot Time in Old Town.

What are the three most important things Orlando City fans need to know about the Fire?

Sean Spence:

1. The Chicago Fire set the standard for MLS expansion teams that Orlando City will try to live up to. In the club’s first year—1998—the Fire won both MLS Cup and the US Open Cup.

2. The Fire have won the U.S. Open Cup four times in total, tying them with Seattle Sounders for the most wins in the modern era.

3. The Fire’s Independent Supporters’ Alliance, Section 8, is an umbrella organization for independent supporters groups, not simply a supporters group. Section 8 ISA and the Fire have a charter governing interactions between the many, often fractious supporters groups and the club.

What nicknames, chants and slang are unique to Chicago, and can you please explain them if they aren’t readily apparent to the outsider?

SS: The Fire are known as ‘CF97’ by the cognoscenti—that’s the club’s initials and the year of our inception. (The Fire first played in 1998, but the anniversary date we recognize is October 8, 1997.)

The chant most associated with the Fire is the one you’ll hear a lot on broadcasts, which goes (roughly) “Fire … Fire … Fire, Fire, Fire … lo lo lo lo, lo lo lo lo, lo lo lo lo lo lo lo.” We are generally mocked for its simplicity by opponents who don’t appreciate its subtle mind-control powers.

When things go poorly, we turn to Jeppson’s Malort, a singularly bitter alcoholic beverage manufactured in Chicago.

The Fire have always been known as the Men in Red, which is increasingly ironic to long-time fans who have seen the kit grow ever-more blue.

What are the can’t-miss things to do when Orlando City fans visit a Chicago Fire game?

SS: Toyota Park is in the suburb of Bridgeview, which is an inconvenient distance from the heart of Chicago proper. There is a pub-to-pitch bus program which allows one to drink at several fine downtown establishments (AJ Hudson’s, Atlantic Bar & Grill, Cleo’s, The Globe, Galway Arms) and make it to the game. But tailgating is very much the heart of the pregame experience for Fire supporters—show up early in the half-paved parking lot at TP and look for the flags! Just don’t get there late or it’ll be deserted, because “First in, last out” is a tradition the many supporters groups of Section 8 take seriously.

Sean Johnson leads Chicago from between the pipes.
Sean Johnson leads Chicago from between the pipes.

Who are the key players on the Fire’s roster that we should know about?

SS: Probably the most familiar face to the casual MLS fan is Mike Magee, the 2013 league MVP. Magee had a serious hip problem this year and is out until something like May 2015, though.

Keeper Sean Johnson could be familiar, too, as he’s been called up by the USA many times (but played very little). He’s capable of the improbable, and has vastly improved his consistency in the last couple of seasons.

The captain is Jeff Larentowicz, an MLS lifer who has recently moved from defensive midfield—where he’d played for New England and Colorado—to center back.

The most promising young player is Harrison Shipp, a Homegrown who led Notre Dame to the College Cup in 2013. Shipp has been intermittently brilliant as a rookie, and we have high hopes for him going forward.

Beyond these most prominent individuals, it’s hard to say. 2014 has been the worst season on the field in Fire history, and we expect an absolutely huge amount of roster turnover before Orlando City joins the league. Even some of these I’ve mentioned could be moved. Stay tuned.

Which of Chicago’s players do you think might get exposed in the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft?

SS: We at Hot Time devoted some space to that question less than a week ago! You can find our opinions here.


Major props to Sean for giving us the skinny on the Chicago Fire. We look forward to developing a nasty rivalry with the team from (near) the Windy City.

Previous “Meet Our New Foes”:

Columbus Crew SC
FC Dallas
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Seattle Sounders
Sporting Kansas City

 

 

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