En Las Buenas Y Las Malas: A Post-Mortem of the 2017 Season.

En Las Buenas Y Las Malas Banner: Made by and photo provided by Nate Cubeta

A supporters’ post-mortem of the 2017 season.

It has been three weeks since the Fire’s revitalizing season was completely destroyed in the first round of the playoffs. After a five year drought, the weight of expectation on Nelson, Veljko and the first team must have been immense, both before and after the dreadful game on that Wednesday night. While blame will be laid on their feet, some rightly and some not, I would rather spend some time reflecting on the positives, and the few negatives, of what has been a very productive season for the Fire and the Chicago soccer community. It can’t be denied that many of us will still be feeling disappointment from just how brutal the collapse against Red Bulls was, but there is now an off-season worth of complaining, ranting and otherwise wallowing about this game and the state of the team for next season. Before we give into that, let’s take a moment to be appreciative of what we have.

This season has been a landmark season for supporters in several ways. We saw the first string of sellouts in Toyota Park for years, both due to the acquisition of several higher profile players and to the team’s amazing winning record at home, which lasted for the majority of the season. We experienced several amazing wins, including an amazing summer filled with games where the Fire looked unbeatable and could not stop scoring. We traveled, we made new friends, we made new enemies (looking at you Bobby Dodd stadium security) and we got back to loving how our team played. It was a year that saw our community grow, founding new events and charities, reestablishing old events and welcoming new Fire supporters into the ranks. The supporters also need to be celebrated for their own achievements in the 20th anniversary party, an event that brought the current team together with legends of the past and really allowed the supporters of the Fire to start to own the history and future of Chicago soccer. The energy, passion and community I saw on October 8th, and from those who gave their hours and days making this event possible, reinvigorated my love for this community. We should not be content with the state of the Toyota Park until it is as one of the most electric atmospheres in the league, but we have every right to be proud of what we accomplished this year.

I would like to thank those in the front office for giving their all to the administration of this team and always being there for the supporters. Despite the years of difficulty and the team making their jobs no easier, many in the front office have worked tirelessly through it all and never gave up on the community. The 2017 season was a step in the right direction, but hardly everything that they deserve, and I hope this trend continues for their sake as much as anyone else. Most of all, Mike Ernst deserves constant praise as always for keeping the ship steady even through the most difficult times. Leaving the game on Wednesday and seeing Mike still shaking hands, saying goodbye to people and thanking them for coming, even after a game that must have been devastating to him, was probably the worst thing I had to see all night. No one deserves a resurgent Fire more than Mike Ernst.

Before we give in to complete depression after that sad picture I just painted, let’s stop and realize this is what the playoffs are. They are brutal, cruel and often swift. Teams that “deserve” to go on often become the first victims of the postseason, and at the time of writing this, regular season powerhouses Portland, Atlanta and 2nd place NYCFC have all exited the playoffs far before they caught even a glimpse of silverware. The Fire should not expect playoff success due to their long drought, nor do they deserve it, and anyone who watched the last months of the 2017 campaign should not have been expecting much better than what we saw against Red Bulls. The complete collapse may have been emphasized by the destruction brought by the Red Bulls, but anyone who watched the Minnesota United debacle, or the final game of the season against Houston only days before the end came at the hands of RBNY, should have seen this coming. We lost something in the late summer that was never found again and, in a structure like the MLS playoffs, losing that special something for even one game can be catastrophic. This team will not be ready to compete on the level that Chicago deserves until it can address and solve this problem. Pundit’s will claim it was one factor or another, many will most likely point to Schweinsteiger’s injury that kept him from being in the team as constantly as he was during the first half of the season. Some will blame our goalkeeping situation, a tumultuous journey that saw three different keepers start games for the Fire, none of which seemed to win over the majority of public opinion with their showings. Others still will blame our continued failure to integrate a true playmaker into the side, which I think has been tried and failed by this administration and by previous administrations. These criticisms are valid, and I’m sure each one will be made several times over before the Fire next set foot on the pitch competitively in March. The task of building this team is not finished yet, but 2017 was the first year of true progress in the last several.

Roster building will not be the entire extent of intrigue in this early off-season, though. Before the melee of the playoffs will be resolved, and while the body of the 2017 season is still warm, we were hit with rumors that our fearless leader Veljko Paunovic has met with the Serbian FA about Pauno taking the reigns of the Serbian senior team after the abrupt dismissal of previous coach Slavoljub Muslin. In a press conference on Wednesday morning of last week, both Pauno and Nelson denied that contact had been made with the Serbian FA, but with Serbia already qualified for the 2018 world cup, this would be effectively offering Veljko a chance to coach his beloved national team in a world cup. If Veljko decides to proceed this way with his career it would not only be understandable, it should be celebrated. He has given much to this city and team over the last two years, and while we would all like him to give just a little more time, it is great to see him being recognized and, potentially, being offered a next step in his career. For now though, we must wait and see what the future holds for our coaching staff. If this was Pauno’s last year with the Fire, all I can say is thank you for the passion you brought back to the team and best of luck in all of your future endeavors. I certainly hope to see you at the 25th anniversary party.

And this brings us to the end of this rant, and the true focus of the off season: Nelson Rodriguez. I will be the first to admit that when Nelson was hired I was skeptical to say the least. I thought we were looking into a version of the Fire where corporate culture was the end all and be all, a far cry from the days when Peter Wilt would spend his free time with the fans whenever possible. Nelson definitely brought his own style of management to the job, clearly changing the culture of acquisitions and hires within the team, but it has not been quite as distant and soulless as I initially feared. In reality, Nelson made efforts towards building fan relations this year, in a way that I have not seen in years from Fire technical staff. He sought out interactions with the Section 8 board, making his presence felt at the Malört 5k and the 20th party itself, as well as stopping by the north lot or the away section when he could before games. I truly think he believes in this this team and community and is in for the long haul. The winter will be a true test for him and newly hired Eddie Rock, as they will need to both find ways to hold on to several high value players while also finding space in the salary cap to add several pieces that were missing this year. Based on the progress made over the last two seasons, I have no doubt they will be up to this task.

Now, as supporters, we head into the uncertainty and excitement of the off season. We will clutch onto every piece of news (and rumor) we can find and stave off the boredom that we are left with during the slow soccer-less months of the year. While the season may not have ended as we hoped, we made a huge amount of progress this year and that needs to be praised. We will always be there for the team, en las buenas y las malas, and no matter what or who this winter brings, we’ll be there on the other side, ready to support this team through whatever comes next.

Dan Giroux,

Vice-Chair, Section 8 Chicago

Rock Against Racism VI, 8/26 at 4:00pm

This Saturday at 4:00PM, in the North Lot before the Fire take on the Loons from Minnesota, we will be hosting Rock Against Racism 6!

Three bands will be playing this year: Three Zone Skam, Fuerza Bruta, and Anger.  As always, the Red Scare did great work with securing breweries: Two Brothers, Half Acre, Ska Brewing, Original Sin, Solemn Oath, and BuckleDown Brewing.  Cans will be available for a small donation.  Furthermore, the t-shirt shown above will be available for a $12 donation.

All proceeds will go towards the Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors.  Justice for our Neighbors are compassionate advocates for just immigration laws and the humane treatment of immigrants and refugees.

Be sure to get to the match early and support this yearly great cause.

A Red Heart Can Never Be Broken

This week, the Section 8 Chicago community suffered a heartbreaking loss. We have sadly lost a long-time Chicago Fire supporter, Armando Chapa, who was friends with countless other Fire fans.

We also sorrowfully received news that Fire supporter Suzanne Ryan lost her son Lochlainn Ryan this week. Suzanne has brought kindness and warmth to our community, and our love and sympathy is with her.

This is not the first time our community has faced adversity. We, of course, come together in good times, but what is more notable is how we unite when one of our own faces tragedy. Nicole Hack (S8C Director of Communications 2015-16) speaks of her own experience when facing the loss of her father, “The support and love I received from the Section 8 Chicago community since 2010 when my dad passed has been refreshing. I’m forever thankful for the comfort other Fire supporters (my Fire fam) shared with my family and me over the years.”

As we remember Armando and Lochlainn, we also remember those we have lost before them – Dan Parry, Brandon Kitchens, Euan McLean, Al Hack, Lauren Bovis, and others. Like the support the Hack family received, we hope that we can provide similar care to those who are currently grieving over the loss of a loved one.

During this heartbreaking time, we stand together. We embrace those who need us. We will always rise above.

A red heart can never be broken.

Get to FireHouse East 8/12! Here the Stories Why!

Away games truly bring together old-timers, new fans, and memories that last a lifetime.  Even on a match that brought heart-breaking loss, fan Matt Mason has fond memories. 
Aboutscott@s8c.org Log
AttachmentsTo protect your privacy, remote images are blocked in this message. Display images“My first road trip was playoffs 2008, we lost but it was still an unbelievable experience. I had been dying to go on a road trip at this point. My friend and I decided to splurge and go on the second bus that was not even guaranteed when I bought my ticket. My awesome manager at the time changed my schedule so I could make the trip. My friend later ditched me and took a seat on the other bus, but that’s all good I had a extra seat and got to meet people. I had another friend join the group in Columbus and who received a ride from Tom I believe. I also learned about the legend that is Andrew Braudy when he took the blame for a flare he didn’t light. It was my first true Section 8 experience!”

There is something special about the MLS away trip. Unlike Europe, where teams are located so close that in many countries a far away trip is a two or three hour train ride, MLS away days are a thing of dedication. To get on a bus with 50 people, many of whom you won’t know, and committing to ride with them for hours both ways just to watch your team compete is kind of a crazy thing to do. You never know who will be on the bus until you find your seat, there is no guarantee that your team will win, and the bus is never comfortable. None of that matters. Many of the best Fire friendships are formed during away games. Vice-Chair, Dan Giroux, states he “met people on buses to Columbus, Philly and further flung destinations. Before I got on that bus I had no idea who any of them were. Spending hours drinking singing and laughing with strangers means they won’t be strangers for long. There is nothing like your first trip and the people you will meet on it, so what better way to prepare for our trip to Columbus on August 12th than to share some stories from Fire fans about their first time riding the away bus.”

Most people don’t know many other supporters when they take their first trip. Jacob Peters was the same way, getting on the bus after a few years living away from Chicago.

“My first year back in Chicago, with the prodding of the guy I split season tickets with, I jumped on a bus with essentially a bunch of strangers & rode the most boring stretch of highway in the country, the ride from Chicago to Columbus. Along the ride I realized that I actually had met many of these people on previous occasions: the dude who had met me outside Red Bull Arena to hook me up with 2 extra tickets in the supporters section; a woman who I had dozens of shared acquaintances with from our high school years on the north side; the ticket rep who had met me in River North to exchange tickets in the years before the advent of the online account manager; the intense capo that I had viewed almost as a myth more than man, but over the course of the trip, I learned he was very much just a regular guy like myself, who loved the Fire.”

“By the end of the return leg, I had shared beers and snack food with these former acquaintances and could call every single one of them a friend, because while the result didn’t go our way, we as a group were able to throw significant shade at the Cowtown that is Columbus, celebrate an Austin Berry goal & hope & pray for an equalizer over those last tense 20 minutes of the game.”

For many, like Jake, the first away trip is to Columbus. It was mine, because at the time I was nervous and the thought of being on a bus for 6 hours each way with strangers was hard enough, doing a longer trip seemed way too much for me. Not for Nate Cubeta though. Nate’s first trip was the long journey to Toronto, another Section 8 on Tour classic.

“My first away trip was Toronto, which was quite an increase in bus time from the usual Pub to Pitch. I was at AJ Hudson’s at an ungodly hour to start the journey north. The few times we got off the bus, people in Michigan and Indiana thought we were the team itself. As we got closer to Toronto, the excitement started to build. We made it to the drop off point and everyone had a celebratory meal at a diner and got to know each other better. Even though we were placed in the upper corner of the stadium, we sang throughout the game. Despite the result being a loss, it was a great experience and lots of the TFC fans applauded our spirit. We left the stadium singing as we headed to a few bars. We all met up the next morning at the same diner before getting on the bus and it was great to hear everyone’s stories of how the night ended up. A lot of the people on that bus I became friends with and I now see at matches both home and away!”

The beautiful thing about the away trips are the unification of Fans. People from every supporters group ride the bus, as well as plenty of people not in one. There are no divisions about what the best way to support are, and for a bus ride there, a bus ride back, and a game in between, everyone is just there to support the Fire. Juan Velazquez has similar feelings, his favorite memory from his first away trip was all the Fire fans being escorted into the stadium at the same time.

“The collective group of Section 8, Sector Latino and everyone in between – singing in this beautiful mix tape of song/chants making our presence felt in enemy territory and never once feeling outnumbered. Away matches, you just want to sing a little louder and jump a little higher.”

With August 12th coming up, and a first placed Chicago Fire getting ready to crash the party in Columbus, I can’t think of a better trip to make your first. Let’s strive to have at least 2 buses, if not 3, worth of fans making their way to Ohio next month, and why drive when you can drink, sing and meet your new best friends from the comfort of a touring bus. Make the commitment now and don’t miss what could be one of the most exciting Fire road trips in years. The Board will do its best to make it a memorable one, or maybe, as one Fire supporter told us fondly, it is better when it is better when you don’t remember much at all.

“Do i remember my first trip? Barely.”

Buy your tickets here!

Fire Away? Let’s Go to the Beach!

On July 22nd, our Men in Red have a 1pm match in the Bronx, NY.  If you cannot make it, the October 8th Committee has your day covered.  As the info graphic says, we will be hosting a fun beach soccer tournament.  It will be 4 on 4, single elimination, and only 8 teams can enter.  $25 per team and the winning team gets $50 towards their Dock tab for the watch party! The goal of beach soccer is fun, but we’ve incentivized the winners so things don’t become too fun! Claim your spot here before all spots go!

During the match, we will have drink specials (tba).  Finally, we have exciting raffle prizes where all donations go towards hosting the 20th Anniversary Party.  Come out, have fun, and let’s keep pace in the Supporters’ Shield race!

Updated: Open Cup @ FC Cincinnati Details

Updated 6/21

The Chicago Fire’s 5th Round Open Cup match will take place @ 7:30PM EST against FC Cincinnati in Ohio.  Section 8 Chicago will once again be running a bus (hopefully more than 1) to the match.  You can purchase bus & match, and match only tickets here.

The estimated details are as followed:

June 28
Depart AJ Hudson’s 11:00 AM
Depart Toyota Park 11:30 AM

Arrive at Nippert Stadium around 6:00/6:30 PM EST

Arrive Toyota Park 1:30 AM (June 29)
Arrive AJ Hudson’s 2:00 AM

Match only tickets will be sold at Ticketleap link above and the watch party will be at The Globe Pub as it’s becoming an away Open Cup tradition to have watch parties there.  Will update post once those details are finalized.

However, it really is easy.  Get on the bus!

Photo credit: Will Bramlett

U.S. Open Cup 4th Round Details

Updated!

The Chicago Fire take on St. Louis FC Wednesday June 14 @ 7:00PM down in Fenton, MO.  s8c has arranged how to get Fire fans inside the stadium.  We’ve been allotted 100 tickets for the match.

All purchases for the following details can be made here.

We will run 1 charter bus down to St. Louis – there are 53 seats on the bus, and the agenda is:
Depart Chicago: 12pm 6/14 (location TBD)
Arrive Fenton, MO: 5:30PM
Depart Fenton, MO: 9:30PM
Arrive Chicago: 3AM (location TBD)

All bus and ticket only purchases must be made by 6/9 at 12:00PM.

The ISA must purchase tickets through St. Louis on Friday 6/9.

The Day the Brimstone Became the Margarita Cup

Thursday’s Fire tilt marks the always anticipated Brimstone Cup match with long time rivals F*C* Dallas.  You can find tickets to the match here.

The history between the Fire and that Texas team is long and bitter.  If you’re looking for a historical breakdown of rivalry, you will not find it in the article.  Chances are you know how to use Wikipedia.  Instead, this article will briefly focus on the events that transpired last year in Dallas when the Fire for the first time in three years lost the Brimstone Cup.

July 16, 2016 could not have a been a more stereotypical Dallas day.  Excruciating heat and humidity.  The day started off with a fun twist; those who brought the Brimstone Cup down to Dallas were greeted by Chicago Sun-Times journalist and author, Neil Steinberg, who took some interest in the trophy.  Once at the stadium, the Dallas Beer Guardians were quite accommodating to those fans who made the trip down.  They gave us beer, we repaid them with Malort.

It wasn’t long after the game started and Maximiliano Urruit’s goal in the 23rd minute, the half dozen or so fans from Section 8 who made the trip down saw the writing on the wall.  We enjoyed our recent run of Brimstone success and decided to use the trophy for what it really is – a cup.  A group of us went up to the concession and ordered, well, a Margarita Cup.  You can see how the order took place below.

I personally can say the Margarita Cup was delicious and a great way how to drain our sorrows.

The Brimstone Cup will be back in Chicago on Thursday night traveling up with Dallas fans.  Let’s win it back and keep for a couple more years.  We Mess With Texas.

Seattle Shame

“Shame. Shame. Shame.” For followers of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, those words recall the scene of Cersei Lannister’s walk of atonement. But on May 13, when the Chicago Fire hosted the Seattle Sounders, those in attendance sporting neon green apparel found themselves being the ones shamed.

If you happened to be at Saturday’s tailgate, you probably saw a bearded individual dressed as what looked like a nun following around Seattle away supporters, ringing a bell, and chanting “shame” at them. Their crime? Being a Sounders fan, of course.

A long-time Fire supporter took it upon himself to don Game of Thrones-inspired apparel and recreate the scene at Toyota Park. That is, publicly shaming those wearing the opposing colors. And few were safe from being shamed for their decision to support the Sounders side. Needless to say, Fire fans and followers of HBO’s hit show alike reveled in the display. And after the Fire beat Seattle 4-1, well, it can be assumed Sounders fans had to feel some post-match shame.