The Chicago Fire and Chicago Red Stars double header was a fantastic idea, but unfortunately, several factors went against the two local soccer clubs tonight. Both teams squared off against their Portland counterparts in their respective leagues, and neither was able to produce a victory.
The weather didn’t cooperate either, as it was only 44 degrees when the Fire ended their 2-2 draw with the Timbers and the Red Stars began their 3-2 loss to the Thorns. It wasn’t much above freezing by the time the Red Stars game ended.
The official attendance tonight was 13,678 but you know how ridiculously inflated most sporting event attendance figures are, and this one was no exception. The Fire and Red Stars brilliantly marketed this one with promos of World Cup champions Bastian Schweinsteiger and Julie Ertz (although she didn’t feature in this one). The two clubs will share the revenue made from the Toyota Park gate on Saturday.
As we said, this was a phenomenal idea on paper, holding the inaugural double header during a World Cup year. It would have been even better if it took place closer to the big tournament in Russia this summer, in order to ramp up the buzz.
Another unforeseen problem was Loyola’s Final Four game, being not just on this same Saturday, but also tipping off just minutes after the Fire kicked off. The Ramblers remarkable cinderella run through march madness came to an end tonight, but it captivated the city’s sports scene this month. The first Final Four appearance by a team in this state in 13 years is always going to be the headliner, and tough to compete with.
Chicago Fire Coach Veljko Paunovic, who guided his side to their first points of the season today, hopes there will be more double headers, with the ultimate goal of establishing the Bridgeview facility as “a temple of soccer.”
“Well listen, I’ll be honest. We have to win our game first in order to support the Red Stars to win their game and it’s important, yes,” Paunovic said.
“It’s important we have that connection, that relationship and the fans are coming more and more to our and their games and we have to make this a temple of soccer.
“We’re trying to do that. So that’s why it’s important to have doubleheaders and we hope to have more in the future. But it’s also, and I’ve said it in the past, it’s coming from the team.”
Pauno knows you have to build a winner in order to get people to come.
“We cannot just organize doubleheaders and expect the people to come. Teams have to play real football and leave the people after the game with a sensation that they want to come back. I don’t think that we did that today.”
Paunovic was brutally honest about the current state of affairs with his club, and he sent a message to Chicago Fire fans, preparing them for what’s ahead. He made it known that the team’s problems can’t be fixed overnight.
“Get ready and prepare for a tough couple of months because we are far from the team that we were and it’s going to take some time to fix it,” he continued, before promising to get the Chicago Fire right before the summer gets here.
“We have to stick together and I want to make that clear.”
“The past is behind and what we have to do now is fix what we have in front of us and that’s a difficult situation in terms of lack of confidence, lack of precision, and lack of clarity sometimes in ideas. But that’s why we’re here and I promise that we’re going to fix it and I promise that in a couple of months I’ll make a different balance.”
Red Stars manager Rory Dames also had favorable things to say about the double header.
“It was neat, it’s always fun to do things with the Fire,” said Dames.
“Once we kind of found our way with them last year, it’s been a good relationship. We support them, they support us. We’re obviously disappointed that we put the first loss of the board here when we’re together, but we’ll go back to the drawing board and keep trying to get better.”
Maybe next time both sides can achieve a victory.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.
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