All the ingredients were there to provide a special night for the Chicago Fire: Cinco de Mayo falling on a Saturday, a late night kickoff in summer weather (when the very preceding Chicago Fire home game was hard core winter weather), and the best team in Major League Soccer (Atlanta United) coming to town.
Atlanta came in to this match second in the MLS in points this season, but the only team ahead of them, NYCFC, has played two more matches. This could have been a statement game for the Fire, and a fiesta grande for their seguidores y fanaticos, but they couldn’t capitalize, as the 15,024 in attendance (many of which were outfitted with festive holiday accoutrements) at Toyota Park saw United take all three points, winning 2-1.
Before we delve further into the match, let’s take a moment to remember what this holiday is all about.
Contrary to how it might be conveyed, Cinco de Mayo is not about selling a ton of Coronas and Tostitos to inebriated Caucasian Americans in sombreros. It actually commemorates Mexico’s victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 over Napoleon III and France. This victory was critical to the American Civil War, as it ended the Confederacy’s chances of getting aid from the French.
It’s a relatively minor holiday in Mexico, except in the town of Puebla. Also Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (that’s on September 16th), contrary to popular belief. For further reading on Cinco de Mayo, go to this link.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!
On May 5, 1862, 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated 8,000 French troops at the Battle of Puebla.
The victory was a pivotal moment in the U.S. Civil War.
Confederates wanted Napoleon’s help in battle, but the French loss at Puebla diverted this.
The Union won. pic.twitter.com/pExAygO5Ok
— Kaivan Shroff (@KaivanShroff) May 5, 2018
It's #CincodeMayo! Today commemorates the 1862 Mexican army victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. Contrary to popular misconception, today isn't Mexico's independence day, that's September 16th. https://t.co/jNLMyalke3 pic.twitter.com/l1xHqAzbl8
— HISTORY (@HISTORY) May 5, 2018
In terms of the game, itself, Chicago came out much better in the first half than they had been as of late. It was goalless at halftime, with Atlanta owning a 61%-39% advantage in possession, 6-5 in shots. However, in the second half, to quote Ron Burgundy “boy that escalated quickly.”
$15,000,000 man Ezequiel Barco opened the scoring in the 53′ with his first career goal, and Josef Martinez provided what would ultimately be the game winner just four minutes later. The Fire got one back four minutes later, courtesy of Kevin Ellis. Other highlights for Chicago included the play of Johan Kappelhof, who earned the Fire’s man of the match, and the return of Bastian Schweinsteiger in the attacking midfield.
Having Schweinsteiger pushing forward again, instead of playing in the back line, worked out well, but it wasn’t enough to gain all three points. Fire Coach Veljko Paunovic saw a lot of positives in the defeat.
“I think we played a mature game,” Pauno said.
“We keep growing, I see my team getting better and better, we fell short, but what I like about this team, we never give up, we push until the end…I think we as a team our growing, playing with this mentality and this attitude, eventually we will win games.”
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.