CHICAGO – It was a bit of excitement about the future in the thick of a Major League Soccer season that caught the attention of Fire fans across the Chicagoland area.
On July 9th, the team announced that they paid $65.5 million dollars to break their lease at SeatGeek Stadium with the City of Bridgeview. This cleared the way for the club to move back to Chicago, most likely to their former home of Soldier Field, in an effort to build more interest in the team.
Naturally, the thought of getting back downtown had even the players optimistic for what’s coming in the 2020 season.
“We’ve seen a lot of new downtown stadiums open with tons of success and lots of support and people going to the game,” said Fire midfielder Dax McCarty last week when asked about the announcement of the move. “Hopefully we continue to get our die-hard fans out, the same ones that have supported us throughout the years out here at SeatGeek.
“But maybe this is an opportunity to get some new fans out there as well.”
Yet that opportunity is still months and months away for the club, who still has to officially announce a future home in Chicago. For the moment, the team’s got enough at hand to keep their minds occupied as they try to salvage the 2019 MLS season.
On Saturday, the team took arguably one of their more painful losses of the season against last place FC Cincinnati at SeatGeek Stadium. Coming into the contest with an eight-game unbeaten streak at home, the Fire watched their opponents grab 2-1 victory on a goal in the final ten minutes of the contest.
It drops the Fire to tenth in the Eastern Conference, four points behind Toronto FC for the last playoff spot.
“I’ll always say it’s on us. It’s always us. Today it was on us. We had our opportunities. We weren’t productive enough,” said Paunovic of the loss to FC Cincinnati. “We didn’t execute well and our opponents, we always respect and prepare for them and I think we also prepared well.
Unfortunately, I think we didn’t execute but, in this case, we don’t look at our opponents like the biggest threat. The biggest threat is ourselves and that’s something we’re working to fix.”
Can they do it in time is the question. The team has another home game this Wednesday against the Columbus Crew at SeatGeek Stadium, so a chance for some redemption is ahead. Yet the squad’s inconsistency continues and they’ve still yet to win a match on the road this year in league play.
“We are focused on the team we have, and I don’t have anything to share. Yeah, the transfer window is open and there are teams that are calling and trying to offer something or more than anything they’re looking for players to let go, but for us the guys we that we have are the priority,” said Paunovic. “We are focusing on them and we will do everything to prepare for the next game.
“I know that if we win next game we will be sitting here Wednesday and talking about different things, more positive definitely, and that’s my focus and that’s my vision.”
It’s one that’s on the now for a team that has something potentially exciting coming in the 2020 season. But there’s work to do before that for the Fire to make sure they leave Bridgeview for Chicago with a little positive momentum.