If you build it, they will come.
The Chicago Fire have built a competitive and interesting team, full with a big name star in Bastian Schweinsteiger. So when the Fire played against the defending MLS Cup champs on one of the first nice Saturday nights of the spring, a big crowd came in the form of a sellout.
The announced crowd of 20,153 witnessed a 4-1 Fire win against the Seattle Sounders. It was the Fire’s first sellout since Sept. 19, 2015 when Kaka came to town with Orlando.
The three-goal victory was a good advertisement by the team to get some of these fans to come back. The players also noticed the boost it gave them on the field.
“It was a great atmosphere today at the stadium,” Schweinsteiger said. “As you could see it helped us. I hope for the next home match it’s going to be the same.”
Matt Polster, who made his season debut off the bench after missing the first two months of the season due to injury, is one of the team’s longest tenured players. He said he has not many crowds this good in his three years with the Fire.
“I think that was the best crowd in quite some time,” Polster said. “I think the fans are always good, but I think this was a different level tonight.
“It’s easy when the fans are chanting and they’re just cheering you on. I think that gives us an extra little bit of energy. I think it showed tonight in the result.”
The Fire have recently been looked at as one of the team’s lagging behind compared to other franchises in Major League Soccer. The on-field results have dipped (back-to-back last place finishes and one playoff appearance in the last seven years) and attendance has ranked in the bottom five each of the past four years.
That's not a good look for a team in the third biggest market in the country when more teams are drawing big crowds and the league’s average attendance has gone up each of the past four years. Saturday showed a step in the right direction, both in the stands and on the field with a 4-1 win.
“The smiles are back in Bridgeview finally,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “It’s not only one game. This is the general feeling that our team has in the locker room, outside of the locker room, when we are downtown in the city, wherever we are we can feel there is a passion about the team.”