By Paul M. Banks
AGAINST THE NEW YORK RED BULLS ON ESPN
The Chicago Fire will open the 2010 MLS season against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, March 27 at 6:00 PM CT. The Fire will play in the inaugural MLS match at the Red Bull’s state-of-the-art soccer specific stadium, in a nationally televised game on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. Click here for a virtual tour of the new Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.
It’s a new season for the Chicago Fire, a franchise born on the exact anniversary of the 1871 natural disaster that ravaged the second city and gave the team it’s name. In those 12 years, they’ve made the playoffs every year but one. Essentially they’re the anti-Cubs (or anti-Northwestern Wildcats if you will). They’re growing in popularity, as is the MLS in general.
“Soccer in general is heading in the right direction. I think we put things in place in the last week that I think will will attract more players to the league,” Midfielder John Thorrington told me at Wednesday’s sold-out season kickoff luncheon. “I think the players here will be happier, and it will become a part of the progression we’re seeing of soccer becoming more popular in the big market cities, as well as the expansion cities,” he continued.
Last season, the Fire finished Conference runner-up, losing to eventual champion Real Salt Lake. Star forward Brian McBride talked about what is required to get the team over the hump this season. “Sometimes it’s a little bit of an extra something. Whether it’s fitness or luck, conviction it’s something we need…to take our experience the last two years and use it as a tool for better understanding,” he said. This year the Fire will enter the MLS season with a new coach, and a few major personnel changes.
McBride likes the team’s chances. “(the offseason) it always flies by. I’m excited about the season in general, we’ve got a strong team, one that should challenge for the championship,” he articulated Wednesday.