The Chicago Fire is a professional soccer club based in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Illinois, USA. It participates in Major League Soccer. The team was founded October 8 1997 on the 126th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In 1998, their first season in the league, the Fire won the MLS Cup as well as the U.S. Open Cup (the "double"). They have also won the 2000, 2003, and 2006 U.S. Open Cup.
The Chicago Fire has had a cooperative agreement with Monarcas Morelia, a Mexican First Division football club, since 2001. The partnership incorporates playing, coaching, and executive personnel, as well as sharing of business and development practices.
The club also has - through its reserves program, the Chicago Fire Premier amateur team playing in the Premier Development League, and the Chicago Fire Juniors youth teams - a substantial youth development system by American standards. It also has a charitable community entity, the FireWorks for Kids Foundation.
The official team colors are red and white; black, navy blue and sky blue have also been used by the Fire as accent/alternate colors over its history.
A number of famous players have worn the Fire shirt, including the US internationals Chris Armas, Frank Klopas, Eric Wynalda, DaMarcus Beasley, Josh Wolff, Tony Sanneh, Carlos Bocanegra, and Justin Mapp; and other Americans like Jesse Marsch, C.J. Brown, Ante Razov, Zach Thornton, and Chris Rolfe. Chicago has also imported both established international talent such as Peter Nowak, Lubos Kubik, Hristo Stoichkov, Tomasz Frankowski, and Cuauhtémoc Blanco; and younger developmental players like Damani Ralph, Ivan Guerrero, Bakary Soumare, and Patrick Nyarko.
Success continued for several seasons to come, reaching the 2000 MLS Cup Final (only to lose to Kansas City) and winning the 2000 U.S. Open Cup. Notable internationally seasoned players like Hristo Stoitchkov, and young American talents such as DaMarcus Beasley competed for the club's first head coach, Bob Bradley.
In 2006, the club moved from Soldier Field into a $100m purpose-built 20,000 capacity stadium at the corner of 71st Street and Harlem Avenue in Bridgeview, on the southwest side of Chicago. A unspectacular league campaign followed, but an impressive cup run led to the 2006 U.S. Open Cup title.
Despite a record of consistent success throughout its history, especially in the U.S. Open Cup, the anxiety to win another league title continued to grow. Coach Sarachan entered 2007, his fifth season in charge, under intense pressure from fans and the club to produce a league championship sooner rather than later. On April 3 2007, the Fire signed Mexican international and América star Cuauhtémoc Blanco to a Designated Player contract. Blanco would join the team at the conclusion of his contract with Club America that June. Although the exact salary details were not disclosed per policy, Blanco would be under contract with the Fire until 2009. After a 3-0-1 start, the Fire won only one game of their next eight, leading to Sarachan's dismissal. John Guppy, after a brief search, named Millionarios manager Juan Carlos Osorio as head coach.
On September 6, 2007, Andell Holdings, a Los Angeles-based private investment firm with global business and investment interests controlled by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Hauptman, announced their acquisition of AEG's interests in the Chicago Fire Soccer Club and Toyota Park. While not officially disclosed, reports estimated the purchase price to be upwards of $35 million. Behind Blanco and the acquisition of Osorio's central defender at Millionarios, Wilman Conde, the Fire went on an extended unbeaten run to close the season and qualify for the playoffs; only to fall to New England again in the Eastern Final at Gillette Stadium.
On December 10, 2007, the club announced the resignation of Juan Carlos Osorio. Osorio was named head coach of Red Bull New York on December 18, 2007. Chicago were compensated by New York for Osorio's hiring with draft picks and cash. Owner Andrew Hauptman filed tampering charges with the league in protest of RBNY's handling of the matter.
On January 17, 2008, former Fire star Frank Klopas was named Technical Director in charge of player personnel, and longtime assistant Denis Hamlett was appointed head coach. Former Fire assistant and Dallas manager Mike Jeffries and retired Fire legend Chris Armas were hired as assistants.
In preparation for the 2008 season, Chicago signed Polish international forward Tomasz Frankowski, recently of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Lider Marmol. However, the club failed to reach an agreement on a contract for both starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens who departed for Queens Park Rangers F.C. and their drafted US U23 international Dominic Cervi.
On April 11th 2008, club owner and Chairman Andrew Hauptman relieved president John Guppy of his duties effective immediately. It is believed the removal of Guppy was due directly to the mishandling of the Juan Carlos Osorio departure over the past offseason. Javier León, head of Andell Sports (the club's holding company) acted as interim president while a search was conducted, while many fans called for the reinstatement of former club president Peter Wilt.
Chairman Andrew Hauptmann named former Chicago Bears executive Dave Greeley club president on August 26th 2008. Greeley has been cited as dismissive and insulting to the Fire and the sport of soccer in his previous role with the Chicago Bears by former Fire executives .
The Chicago Fire logo is derived from the standard style of a Fire Department's crest (also shown by the Chicago Fire Department). The shape is also known as a Florian's cross, often confused with the Maltese cross, and was picked in part due to the wishes of original GM Peter Wilt to create an image that was both as timeless as those of the NHL Original Six and evocative of European soccer. There is a stylized 'C' in the center representing Chicago, similar to the logos of the Bears and Cubs. The six star points around the center reference the four six-pointed stars in the municipal flag of the City of Chicago. The four stars in the city's flag represent the four monumental events in the history of the city, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the 1893 World's Fair, the 1933 World's Fair, and the Fort Dearborn Massacre.
Nike, the original club outfitters, wanted the team to be named Chicago Rhythm featuring a turqouise, black and green color scheme and a cobra adorned logo -- but team officials declined and developed the Fire identity.
The original Fire shirts in 1998 were chosen because of their resemblance to a Chicago fireman's coat, featuring broad horizontal stripes across the torso and sleeves. The home jerseys were rendered in red and white with "FIRE" in silver on the front; the away shirts were white and black in this same style. Over the years the look has become more stylized but the core idea of the home shirts being all-red with a white horizontal chest stripe has remained constant, even though the uniform manufacturer has changed from Nike in 1998, to Puma in 2003, and then adidas in 2006. Away/secondary shirts have changed over the years from the aforementioned white/black in 1998, to white/navy, and the white/red style currently used. In 2005 a popular light blue-colored third shirt based on the Municipal Flag of Chicago was worn but discontinued during the change in manufacturer to adidas.
Aside from the badge, jersey style, and colors, the club and their fans frequently use the rich civic symbolism of Chicago in materials they produce. The six-pointed Chicago stars are prominent but the light blue color, municipal device (Y-circle), and skyline appear on the team website, scarves, and banners in the stadium. The Municipal Flag is also favored for display by fans of the club; somewhat akin to the use of the flag of Catalonia for FC Barcelona fans - but without the associated nationalism.
On January 11th, 2008, the team reached a deal with Best Buy to become the jersey sponsor.
Other than the supporters' groups, the club is known for its stadium wide vocal and visual support, particularly for matches of great competitive importance. Call-and-response cheering amongst the crowd is commonplace. Toyota Park, during Fire matches, are one of the few American sports environments to periodically engage in acts of tifo, or visual displays put on by fans before the match to show their pride and inspire the players on the field.
|Year||Reg. Season||Playoffs||Open Cup||CONCACAF|
|1998||2nd, West||Champions||Champions||Did not qualify||Started in 2007|
|1999||3rd, West||Quarterfinals||Round of 16||3rd place|
|2000||1st, Central||Final||Champions||Did not qualify|
|2001||1st, Central||Semifinals||Quarterfinals||Not held|
|2002||3rd, East||Quarterfinals||Round of 16||Quarterfinals|
|2003||1st, East*||Final||Champions||Did not qualify|
|2004||5th, East||Did not qualify||Final||Semifinals|
|2005||3rd, East||Semifinals||Semifinals||Did not qualify|
|2006||3rd, East||Quarterfinals||Champions||Did not qualify|
|2007||4th, East||Semifinals||Round of 16||Did not qualify||Did not participate|
* Won MLS Supporters' Shield
MLS regular season only, through 2007
On radio, the Fire have all matches broadcast in Spanish by "La Tremenda" WRTO-AM; Oscar Guzman, Adrian Camacho and Enrique Fernandez handle the announcers duties. All matches are also broadcast in Polish by WNVR with Jacek Zielinski doing the announcing and Leszek Dorosz on commentary.