December 31, 2005
Kathryn L. Knapp
TOP TEN FOR 2005
A Look Back at Chicago's Year of Soccer
2005 was definitely the year of soccer for those in Chicagoland. There was always something going on, especially in summer. There was soccer from January through December. Everywhere you looked there was something going on.
2005 also proved to be a year of change for the soccer community. The Fire’s front office was transformed, while construction on Bridgeview Stadium continued at a rapid rate. The Storm just missed the playoffs in its expansion season. Some of the world’s best played at Soldier Field.
It was truly a year to remember… Here’s a look at the Top 10 Events for professional soccer. College soccer comes later – don’t think I forgot.
10. Chicago Fire – The Year of Youth
Rookies. Plain and simple. The Fire made some good selections at the 2005 MLS Superdraft. Those selections, made their way into Chicago’s starting lineup. Gonzalo Segares, Chris Rolfe and Chad Barrett will all be around for a long time. Barrett appeared in 20 games for Chicago, collecting one goal and four assists. Segares played and started in 21 games with three goals and one assist as a defender. Rolfe played in 29 games with 21 starts and led the team in scoring with eight goals and five assists. The future of the Fire looks bright.
9. Storm Brawl
What’s a game without a little drama? March 19th, Chicago and Cleveland had a brawl after the game. It cost the Storm a couple players and quite possibly a shot at the playoffs. Storm defender Gaston Pernia was suspended a total of six games, and his brother Leo a total of three games, as the result of the melee at the UIC Pavilion. The league acted quickly and decisively.
8. Fire vs. A.C. Milan
There was a time when international teams turned up their noses at soccer in the United States. But thanks to the success of the U.S. National team, teams are finally acknowledging that we have a real professional league in the states. They’re traveling here to showcase their talents and get some practice. A.C. Milan and the Fire met in a friendly match July 27th. Chicago played well, even surprising A.C. Milan with the game tied 1-1 at the end of the first half. But A.C. Milan came back, tallying two more goals in a 3-1 win.
7. Fire Back in the Playoffs
The Chicago Fire became a legend in the team’s inaugural season, winning the double. The team was always tough and always competed in the postseason until 2004. After sitting out the 2004 campaign, Chicago fought its way back in to the playoffs in 2005. The Fire (15-13-4, 49 points) finished third in the regular season. D.C. and Chicago battled in the conference semifinals. The first game ended in a 0-0 draw. But in game two, Chicago’s offense exploded for a 4-0 win. The Fire advanced to the Conference Championships, where the team fell 1-0 to New England. But regardless – Chicago was back.
6. USA – England at Soldier Field
The last time the USA and England met, the Americans walked off English soil with a 2-0 win. In 2005, England would turn the tables, walking off American soil with a 2-1 win. 47,637 fans turned out to see the team’s battle at Soldier Field. Despite missing a number of players, including David Beckham and Michael Owen, England notched a 2-1 victory. Amazingly, there may have been more English fans in the stands than American fans. After all, it’s not every day the English National Team plays in the USA. The atmosphere was full of excitement.
5. Storm Success
Beginning its inaugural campaign, many people doubted Storm Head Coach Frank Klopas and his plan. He brought in veteran indoor players. Added some outdoor players and coached them to a successful first season. It may not have been all the team hoped for, but it wasn’t a bad start. Chicago ended the season tied with Kansas City at 18-21. St. Louis (20-20) actually earned the fourth and final playoff spot by defeating the Storm 4-2. A couple more victories and Chicago would have made the playoffs. It wasn’t 100 percent success. But Chicago still found ways to turn heads in its debut season.
4. Fire / New England – Mexico Poland
How do you get soccer fans out in numbers? Bring in the national teams that have the most fans living in Chicago. In a doubleheader on April 27th, the Fire faced New England followed by Mexico-Poland. Chicago fell 3-0 to the Revolution. But then the national teams took center stage. 54,427 stuck around to watch Mexico and Poland battle to a 1-1 draw. It was an electric atmosphere with country flags flying and chants in multiple languages. It was truly the start to an exciting year for soccer at Soldier Field.
3. Bridgeview Stadium
It sounded like a fairytale for soccer fans throughout Chicago – a permanent soccer stadium in Chicagoland. But Peter Wilt and AEG made it happen. The team broke ground in November 2004. And steadily, with every month, it was beginning to look like a real stadium. Steal beams were placed, concrete was poured, grass was laid. This is it… a reality. In summer 2006, Bridgeview Stadium will open its doors to the public.
2. Real Madrid vs. Chivas – BECKHAM MANIA
Beckham and Owen may not have shown when England came to town. But they surfaced when Real Madrid came to town for a friendly match July 16th. Fans flocked to the stadium to see Beckham – the most known and adored footballer in the world. Oh… and there was also a soccer game going on. Make that two. The Fire played the Crew, ending in a 1-1 draw. Then came the big game. Real Madrid faced Chivas in front of 54,432 fans. Chivas struck first. But Real showed its flare, tallying three unanswered goals. Fans definitely got their money’s worth. I’ve seen a lot of soccer, but that by far is one of the best games.
1. Wilt Out / Guppy In
April 11, 2005 is perhaps the most pivotal day in Chicago Fire history. After being at the head of the Fire for eight years, Peter Wilt was relieved as President of the club. John Guppy, an unknown man from the MetroStars, would now be at the helm of the Fire. AEG said it was time to take more of a business approach. Fans, players and staff were blindsided. It was an emotional time for all. Wilt stayed on as General Manager for the remainder of the season, even renewing his season ticket for the new stadium. It took time, but everyone learned John Guppy had good intentions for the Fire. It was the start of a new era.