CHICAGO – The hope of the club was to play this match with implications for Major League Soccer’s playoffs on the line making for a spirited atmosphere at Soldier Field.
While the chance to make the playoffs has been out of mind for a bit, Chicago Fire FC was able to welcome in a crowd of supporters like they might have hoped for their home finale in 2021.
The club announced a season-high attendance of 31,308 for their match on Saturday night at Soldier Field for their fan appreciation evening in the last game in Chicago this season.
Over the course of 90 minutes plus some stoppage time, they didn’t let the supporters down as they put together a strong effort against Real Salt Lake, a club very much fighting for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Robert Beric’s goal just before halftime and a strong defensive performance aided by goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina helped the Fire to a 1-0 win in the home finale. It extended the club’s unbeaten streak to three and their winning streak to two as they close out their schedule at Soldier Field ahead of two more road matches.
In their second year calling the venue their home since the move from SeatGeek Stadium, and the first one with fans, the first finished with a 6-5-5 record at Soldier Field this season. They played one home match this season at SeatGeek Stadium, defeating New York City FC 2-0 on September 29th.
“That was a special night, and I think one that left a really good image for the fans,” said interim manager Frank Klopas. “Unfortunately, we’re not a team that’s going to be going to the playoffs but I think finishing the way we did tonight, it’s not just about winning the game. I just felt like the way the guys competed, the mentality.
“Great personality, great fight, great grit. And then we played some very good football, what they put into the field, I think that that was something that the fans would respect and appreciate and something that we expect here in Chicago.”
Beric’s eighth goal of the year, which tied him with Luka Stojanovic for the club lead, was backed up by the 17-year old Slonina, who continues to be one of the stories of the club in 2021. The native of Addison made five saves and was named Man of the Match while also earning a spot on the MLS’ Team of the Week.
“I think I think first and foremost, it was a great team performance, you know. I think we used that energy from Cincinnati to push us in this game and you know, it’s the end of the season but I think we’re still finishing strong and fighting every single game, which I love,” said Slonina. “It’s awesome to play with a team that fights every single minute of the game and I think it’s more about a team performance that really pushed us and helped every individual be better.”
The fans helped do their part, too, as the club had a positive atmosphere and performance to say goodbye to their fans for this season.