Outside a bar at halftime, one team was up a man and four goals. The crowd outside was split, not between teams but between ideals. Who would go back to watch the second half? It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon at the beginning of spring and a few of us wanted to go sit in a park. The game was all but over. But for some reason, everybody followed one guy back in, back to their seats at the bar. “It’s part of the contract,” he said. “It’s what we do.”
What contract? It’s the contract we sign as fans. The contract to watch and be a part of the sport in America. But what responsibility do we have to the game? What do we owe it? Are we ever allowed our Saturday afternoons?
My annual fan contracts have evolved over the years with regards to the Fire and the sport of soccer in general. Whereas I used to sign up for the atmosphere, or the results themselves, now I sign for the athletics, the ideas, and the story of the competition. Sometimes, I even take my Saturday afternoons soccer-free.
I don’t have to sing or cry anymore. I salute those fans, those who sign the emotional fan contract. They’re stronger than I. They’re the ones singing at Toyota Park against Red Bulls in the cold. They’re the ones proving the word fan comes from fanatic. They’re the ones spending hours upon hours on tifo or travelling all over the country, dealing with airports and buses and Kansas City. Those fans carry the club. They’re as much a part of the team as the players.
- TIFO TIMELAPSE: The work put in to create home opener tifo
But then, I’m not one of them. I’m a different kind of fan. I’m a supporter, in the true sense of that word. I want the team to do well and I want to support it towards its goals. My contract with the team is to be a part of that progression.
Nowadays, that supporter contracts costs me two things: my money and my time. I pay to watch the games and I give my time to watch and read about my team.
But as a supporter, I can’t stand the occasional debates about who the “real” fans are. They’re tiresome. The truth is that it’s simply difficult in MLS to figure out the “right” way to support your team. Young, and comprised of mostly young organizations, it’s a unique league in the world of soccer. Doesn’t it come with a different kind of contract for us to sign now as fans, supporters, consumers, and participants?
In MLS, there is for us American soccer fans the first chance in a generation to support our local team. Our team in our city. Our contract with the league and our team in the league is about something bigger. It’s about the idea of growing something that is ours.
Our participation, now, is the basis of American soccer.
It’s in that umbrella of growth, that fungal tarpaulin, under which we all stand together. Hipster craft beer MLS fans, soccer moms, whatever. We all struggle with our responsibility, caught between fandom and supporterdom, between Saturday afternoons and the bar - but that’s ok. That’s part of the uniqueness of our American soccer contract. We get to carve out our own relationships with the team and the league. Like a cartoon rumble, we define it as it defines us, and we roll together down the hill.
Some of us will go to the stadium once a year for the tailgate while others go every week out of unshakeable loyalty to the badge; some of us will go to see a new tactical development while others want to see a guy they played against in high school - the point is that we’re all there. Supporters and fans, side by side.
In the end all the arguments about MLS fans are pointless because there is only one way to watch the game. It’s the way that makes you want to watch, follow, and maybe buy a shirt or a ticket. That’s the way we build this thing - so go and find your way.
Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.
If he had a super power what would it be? Which teammate would win American Idol? Who would play him in a movie?
It's all in this episode of Both Sides of the Badge with Chris Ritter presented by Quaker.
Frank Yallop, Chicago Fire Head Coach and Director of Soccer
On how he felt entering the match
“Confident, you know, we have not lost in two matches and I always look at the positive if I can, and you know we haven’t lost in three, that’s the way I look at it. We haven’t won a game yet this season but again, it’s not easy to win games, especially away from home in this league so we are looking forward to playing at home next weekend and hopefully we can get that in.”
Sean Johnson, Chicago Fire Goalkeeper
On the team’s defensive effort:
“I thought it was good, to be fair. I thought it was just a bit unfortunate. The second goal there was a bit of pinball action around. They got good forcing and I thought we had some similar situations where we had the ball in their box and things didn’t really fall our way, but that’s just the way it goes, that’s soccer for you. I think we’ve done well and at the end of the day we’ve got to look at it. We got a point. We came in and I think we deserved three. We played well enough to get three, but it is just up to us to really push over that hump and turn the ties into wins.”
On the tough field conditions:
“It’s alright, I mean it’s part of the game. We train in Chicago – it’s been snowy, it’s been rainy, it’s been cold, so the conditions we are used to. You know, so it’s nothing we don’t see on a regular basis. The conditions were tough, but at the end of the day, we are professionals, it’s what we signed up for and we deal with it.”
Quincy Amarikwa, Chicago Fire Forward
On having three consecutive draws
“It’s the third straight game we got points, I mean that’s how you got to look at it. Not dropping points, especially on the road, is huge in this league. If you look at teams that make the playoffs on a regular basis, they don’t lose, they at least get a draw or a win and you know that’s how it goes. And if we can come away with points every single time on the road, I will take them.”
On the difficult conditions
“You know, whenever it is raining like that it can get a little slick and hard to control the ball at times. You saw that last play; Pat played a good ball in behind that took a touch, on a regular field that holds up, for me today, it skips away. Just the elements you’ve got to deal with, and hopefully it starts clearing up everywhere across the league because everywhere we’ve been, the elements haven’t been too kind to us.”
Select shots from the Fire's 2-2 draw with D.C. United presented by MiAllstate.
Help buy the materials and other needs to continue to make Section 8 Chicago's tifo efforts among the best in MLS. Donate to the S8C tifo fund by clicking here.
After picking up a point in the home opener against Supporter’s Shield winners New York last week, the Fire head to D.C. looking to steal all three points for the first time this season (LIVE 3pm CT on NBC Sports Network).
D.C. are in transition and are also in search of their first win. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective:
Continuing to attack with pace - utilizing Alex
Against New York last week, the Fire looked very dangerous on the counter attack when Alex was given space to run at the Red Bulls defense. Not only was the Brazilian able to beat players 1v1 but he drew defenders out of position, opening up space for players like Mike Magee and Quincy Amarikwa to move into.
In D.C.'s last match away in Toronto, Ben Olsen's team was also incapable of defending against the quick counter attack. Michael Bradley and Co. found it much too easy to bypass the lone United defensive midfielder Perry Kitchen who received little help from his fellow midfielders.
I expect D.C. to deploy another central midfielder to help out Kitchen against the Fire, but if the Men in Red can continue to break with that much pace and the interplay between Alex, Magee and Amarikwa continues to improve, the Fire should fare well on Saturday.
More attacking play from wide - taking advantage of D.C. team not fully settled
Against New York last weekend the Fire were forced into making changes at both outside back positions due to injury and suspension respectively.
Matt Watson and Greg Cochrane have had barely any time to work with their new teammates since their recent moves and it showed at times in last week’s game. Against D.C., where there is a good chance both will start again, I look for an improvement in the attacking play from both players.
It will also be interesting to see how Watson/Shipp and Cochrane/Joya combine down each flank after another week’s worth of training together. While there is certainly a weakness in the D.C. midfield, a balance between attacking down the middle and from the wings is necessary.
With so many new players on the field for D.C., positioning, especially defensive positioning, is a major problem. This was quite obvious in the Toronto match, with D.C. players often gesturing to one another in an attempt to determine who to mark.
If the Fire can get Watson and Cochrane forward to support the attack, it will pin D.C. back and could benefit the away team.
Keeping Eddie Johnson isolated and limiting set pieces - making it harder for D.C. to find the net
D.C.'s most notable offseason acquisition was striker Eddie Johnson, who on his day is one of the league’s best strikers. In his first two games however, Johnson was an isolated figure up front, managing only 1.5 shots according to the website Who Scored.
The Fire’s defense did a fine job shutting down Thierry Henry last week and will be looking to do the same against Johnson and perhaps register a first shutout of the season. D.C. have yet to score this year but are a major threat from set pieces with players like Jeff Parke, Bobby Boswell and Fabian Espindola looking to get on the end of quality deliveries from Luis Silva.
D.C. got men in the box at any opportunity against both Toronto and Columbus and I expect it to be no different on Saturday. After giving up yet another goal from a set piece last week, the Fire coaching staff will no doubt be encouraging the players to keep their concentration, especially against a team desperate to pick up its first points and goal of the season.
Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from Alex and Quincy Amarikwa.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
WATCH: Sean Johnson, Matt Watson preview D.C. United
I've spent some time this week on Twitter pondering whether or not New York Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill would receive any additional suspension for a swing he took on reigning 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee in the waning moments of Sunday's home opener.
The thoughts crossed my mind after seeing the two game suspension that Fire defender Lovel Palmer received the previous week for a foul that didn't look nearly as egregious as the one Cahill committed on Magee. My suspicions were only heightened when the play didn't make it into MLSsoccer.com's weekly "Instant Replay" feature earlier this week.
Watch it again below:
The MLS Disciplinary Committee decided Wednesday that the foul Cahill committed was only deserving of the yellow card that referee Drew Fischer showed to the Australian international and that no further disciplinary action would be necessary.
Admittedly I'm a homer and I'm sure there has at some point in the 19-year history of MLS there have been more egregious plays that have gone unpunished but it was hard not to feel like Lovel Palmer, who will be suspended again for Saturday's game at D.C. United, was the one losing out in this whole situation.
As I learned Wednesday night, clearly I should have just called on the services of young Keira Magee, who with the help of her father, quite plainly put the whole situation in perspective better than multiple tweets from the club's Team Writer ever could:
— Mike Magee (@magee9) March 26, 2014
Anyways, it may be time to get the below hashtag some love on Twitter...
It's Opening Day on Sunday and I'm making my normal pre-game rounds at the Section 8 Chicago tailgate. As I parade through the gaggle of the club's most vocal supporters, I stop and welcome back familiar faces from Ultras Red Side, one of the bigger groups inside of Section 8.
As we chat about our hopes for the game and what kind of spirits are keeping us warm, one Antwon Galante reveals a fresh tattoo he had done the night before.
"I had it planned for a while now but I wanted to get it for the new season -- fresh ink and a fresh start for 2014," Galante told me by phone on Wednesday.
The new tattoo features a large Fire logo on his right wrist and above it, an illustration of "The Harlem End" where Section 8 Chicago is based in Toyota Park.
"Obviously I wanted to pay homage to the Fire but also pay tribute to Section 8 and The Harlem End," he said. "It's a special part of our stadium and it's been like a second home to me."
While the tattoo was still obviously raw (and a little painful for Antwon), I quickly took out my iPhone and threw it up on the @ChicagoFire Instagram account. Shortly after @MLS did a #regram of it and Antwon was famous in the #MLSInk world.
You come into work on Wednesday and see the whole #cf97Ink hashtag has started to be populated on Twitter by others that have made that life-long decision to have some type of Chicago Fire-related art adorn their body.
A few more...
— Frank Cardenas (@wbo5elguapo) February 27, 2014
— Jëff Kräusë (@DFBJeff) March 26, 2014
— Chow (@chow3) March 26, 2014
— Stephen Young (@SteveY8) March 26, 2014
— Elle (@elle_tiburon) March 26, 2014
Extra credit goes to the person that doesn't have #cf97Ink but goes and gets it by the end of the day...