CHICAGO – At the moment, things are difficult for fans of Chicago’s Major League Soccer team as they struggle to find their footing late in the 2021 season.
Chicago Fire FC came into Sunday’s match Nashville SC having lost six of their last seven matches and put most of the talk of the postseason on the backburner as fans look to what the future might hold for the club.
But for a moment at Soldier Field, soccer fans had the chance to reflect on one of the great professional moments for the sport in the Windy City that happened with a team in another league 40 years earlier.
The Fire honored the 1981 North American Soccer League champion Chicago Sting on Sunday with a ceremony that came on the anniversary of their victory in the Soccer Bowl over the New York Cosmos at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. It was Chicago’s first major professional sports championship since the Bears’ NFL title in 1963.
A scoreless match through regulation and overtime, the Sting won in a shootout, with Rudy Glenn scoring the winning goal to give the club their first championship in the league. It occurred during the glory years of the NASL when the league had a television deal with ABC and were drawing strong crowds with a few clubs across the country.
During those years, the Sting called Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park home, and even drew over 39,000 fans in the final of a best-of-three semifinal against San Diego at the south side venue.
As many former players and coaches showed up for the reunion, current Chicago Fire FC players and coaches paid tribute to the team by wearing a Sting shirt featuring the logo of the 1981 Soccer Bowl. Manager Raphael Wicky even wore the t-shirt of the club during the match against Nashville SC.
“Well it’s obviously supporting the history, supporting the history of a great team who a lot of years ago, 40 years ago today, achieved something big and that’s great,” said Wicky. “I saw as well a lot of these players from that time were here and came and still are connected to Chicago and that’s obviously great.”
With members of that Sting team in attendance, the Fire held their own against the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, playing to a scoreless draw as their earned their first point since August 28th.
Addison native Gabriel Slonina made four saves on the match to keep Nashville off the board but the Fire, despite a 63-36 advantage in possession, couldn’t find a way to get a go-ahead goal.
The play of the 17-year old goalkeeper continues to be encouraging for the club as he picked up his second clean sheet in four career MLS matches.
“Personally, I take every match like it’s a final. I want the team to perform, first and foremost, and then I prepare my game mentally, physically,” said Slonina as he continues to get playing time late in the season. “Every time, I’m trying to have the best performance, so I think personally things are going okay right now. I mean, it’s all about the team, and I want to win so I think the team is more important for this part of the season right now.”