CHICAGO – The moment had finally arrived for the club about 13 months after it was supposed to, and the wait was difficult.
Fans were expected to be at Soldier Field for the first time for a Chicago Fire FC game since 2005 back on March 21, 2020. But the pandemic shutdown those plans and forced the club to play their home games at the venue without a single supporter.
But that changed on Saturday night, and while it wasn’t the capacity they might have dreamed of when they announced the move to Soldier Field in the fall of 2019, it was still quite special.
For the first time since September 29, 2019, Chicago Fire FC had home supporters in the stands for their season opener against New England. It wasn’t a full house, since COVID-19 regulations prevent it, but just having some in the building meant a lot to a club that played in front of empty seats when at Soldier Field last season.
“Yeah I mean, that was beautiful. I was waiting a long time for that, was very excited last year and then it didn’t happen. Like I told you guys last year already, the stadium is amazing but now having fans in there, playing in front of our supporters was really, really, really nice,” said head coach Raphael Wicky. “They did a great job and I can only imagine how it is when it is actually even more full, so hopefully in the future we can have that.
“I’m sure we will give our best always to make them happy, but I know that they will push us.”
Early on, they did just that.
Robert Beric’s goal in the fifth minute in and Luka Stojanovic’s score six minutes later gave the hosts a quick 2-0 lead. But in a familiar pattern from 2020, the advantage wouldn’t hold for the rest of the 90 minutes.
In fact, the Revolution needed 16 minutes to get back to even.
New England got goals from Adam Buksa & Gustavo Bou in that time to even the game at two. Despite the fast start, thing would even out the rest of the way, with both clubs starting off the season with a draw.
It was a bit of a letdown considering the fast start to the match, and despite having the fans back, it did leave those on the club wanting more as they look ahead to the six-month campaign.
“First half, they didn’t have too much. We were controlling the game, we were managing the game well. (On) set pieces, we need to be more focused. We need to be more focused,” said defender Francisco Calvo of the opener. “This can’t happen again. We just need to work on those situations, and we will and we’re going to fix that. We have 33 more games ahead of us, so we can be down but we can (also) be happy with the result today.”
At least they can take satisfaction in the turnout and the fact there are finally supporters in the stands at Soldier Field. They certainly waited long enough to see it.