CHICAGO – One of the things that’s been happening in sports over the past few months is fans reflection on the last time they saw their team in action.
For fans of Chicago Fire FC, that was September 29, 2019, when they played to a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC at SeatGeek Stadium.
In so many ways, that seems like an eternity ago.
For one, the club was under a different head coach with a number of different players on the roster. It would be the final game the team would play in Bridgeport before officially making the move over to Soldier Field.
Even their name, crest, uniforms have changed since the last time home supporters got to cheer on Chicago’s Major League Soccer club in the city.
Finally, that changes on Saturday evening, as the club makes their long awaited return to Soldier Field with fans.
The stadium will be open at 25 percent capacity on Saturday when Raphael Wicky’s team starts off their 2021 season against the New England Revolution – a game you can see at 7:30 PM on WGN-TV.
Just the 100 and 200 sections will be open to the fans as they get the chance to watch the club take the pitch for the first since that late September day in 2019.
“It’s so exciting for us to be back in front of the fans. We’ve all been waiting so long for this moment,” said defender Johan Kappelhof, who started that game against Toronto FC at SeatGeek Stadium. “For me, especially, last year was a tough year, and I’m so excited to play for the fans again and give our all.”
Initially the hope was to do so on March 21, 2020, when the team was to return to Soldier Field rebranded as “Chicago Fire FC” with a new crest and colors. It was to be their first match at the venue as the home team since 2006, but the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown the season nine days before it happened.
On August 25th, the club finally got the chance to play at Soldier Field as the regular season resumed, but it was done without a fan in the stands for the next two-and-a-half months. That stretch finally ends on Saturday, where a new generation of the team finally gets to show what they have in front of the fans.
“We’re all excited and cannot wait to start the season with the fans after a long,” said forward Robert Beric, one of many returners from last year and the team’s leading scorer.
Whether the club can end their four-year postseason drought will depend a lot on him, Kappelhof, and others over the next six months. At least their supporters will be there right with them in the stands, just as they were a year-and-a-half ago.