Excitement of 2015 Opening Day Celebration Spoiled by Chicago Fire Match
OTFsoccer’s James Vlahakis opts for introspection over analysis in the Fire’s 0-1 home open heart-breaker.
It was a beautiful day for soccer at Toyota Park. Or maybe I should say it was a beautiful day to watch soccer at Toyota Park.
Expectations were high the Section 8 tailgate that was hosted by the Chicago Chapter of the American Outlaws. I could barely focus on Friday as I thought about returning to Toyota Park.
The mood was jubilant as people greeted each other after a long, cold winter. Many backs were patted and micro-brews and home brews were held up in celebration of a new season. The sun was out in full force and the brisk breeze made it seem cooler than it was. People were ready for soccer. After saying my hellos to various Fire fans, I took my two boys to meet up with friends in Second Star. I told the boys to mind their manners, and reminded myself to do the same. While I truly enjoy my time in Second Star, as do my fellow ticket holders and guests, it’s a different experience than sitting in my usual seats in Section 107 or standing in Section 8 as my kids and I often do for a change of pace. I’m not saying one experience is better than the other, but most of my favorite memories have been made cheering in Section 8 or with my family in Section 107.
Although I’m less likely to let loose with my emotions in Second Star, the sting of Saturday’s 86th minute goal was readily apparent. You could almost feel it coming. While, my kids have learned a few “creative” forms of expression while standing in Section 8, they reminded me of my odd-ball expression, “I can smell a goal”, which more often than not, is a precursor to a Fire goal. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that sense on Saturday and it didn’t seem like anyone else in my vicinity was feeling optimistic.
Truth be told, we didn’t see pretty soccer on Saturday night. Rather, we saw a team in a state of evolution, mutating with each substitution. New positions and formations were tried and our new players were tried out in various spots. The various positional changes did not result in any changes in the scoreboard or in any dramatic changes in the quality of play. In the end, it was a bit of the “same old thing”: anemic play led to missed chances; gritty goal keeping was squandered by a familiar lapse in defending in the final minutes of the game. We were left with a cheap goal and a queasy feeling in our stomachs. 90 minutes of soccer leading to zero points. I was hoping to provide more of a tactical report on the game, but I don’t have the desire to do so at this point. Rather, I’m writing from my heart and it truly aches.
I didn’t speak with anyone after the game with the exception of sending a few depressing text messages (which seemed similar to ones that I sent out last year). There were no victory tweets or post game beers in the parking lots. Rather, at the end of the day it was just me and the boys driving home alone in gloomy, stone-faced silence.
I’m going to try my luck elsewhere for the next game. Whether it’s in the friendly and passionate confines of Section 8 or my prime viewing place in Section 107, I know the boys and I will be cheering until we are red in the face and hoarse. And when our efforts are coupled with a victory, we will feel ten times better walking out of the stadium, eager to celebrate the victory with our friends and acquaintances. In the end, no matter where you watch a game, there’s nothing better than celebrating three points after the final whistle sounds.
James Vlahakis is OTF’s man for analysis and shenanigans (shenaniganalysis?). Make him yours @jvlaha.