Thirteen years ago today, the Chicago Fire opened up MLS play in the Windy City with a 2-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Mutiny at Soldier Field. Chicago soccer legend Frank Klopas scored both goals in the club’s first-ever home match, setting the table for the team’s Cinderella run to the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup double in 1998.
“That’s a game I’ll never forget,” said Klopas. “It was something special to me. I know at that time I was coming towards the end of my career and it was a big disappointment for me the first two years in the league that there wasn’t a team in Chicago because I really wanted to come back and finish my career here.”
The opportunity for Klopas to return to his hometown came when the Chicago Fire was established on October 8, 1997, entering in the league’s first round of expansion the following season. Two weeks prior to the ’98 home opener, the club played its first match, beating fellow expansion side Miami Fusion 2-0 on March 21 at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale.
Returning from that game, Klopas had a special feeling as he took the field with the Fire in Chicago for the first time.
I remember I was driving to Soldier Field and I got there two and a half hours before the game, just thinking ‘Wow, there were so many people here’. The crowd was amazing and obviously to score the two goals, in my comeback to Chicago was great. The atmosphere was electrifying – it was incredible and for me it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Not one to leave out a joke, Klopas quipped.
“When I do [forget], I can put the tape in and watch it once and a while.”
Happy 13th Anniversary on a great Fire win!