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Fire Thu Oct 04 2012

15 Great Moments as the Fire Turns 15

While the Chicago Fire didn't necessarily celebrate its 15th anniversary in style this week by slumping to a 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union, the Fire website has been running an excellent series of vides on the top 15 goals, players and games. You can check it out here. It got me reminiscing and I thought I'd chime in with my own Top 15 games as a fan. I should warn you, it's totally subjective.

15. Chicago 6 New England 0; September 22, 2000
This was the first Fire game I ever attended in person so I thought it might be best to start with. It was a cold, rainy, fairly miserable day, which might explain the playoff attendance of just under 6,000. Six thousand people at Soldier Field is a pretty depressing sight. But we got a treat, with a spectacular performance from what may still be the strongest team in the history of MLS. Practically everybody on the field was already a legend, or destined to become one. (Except Tenywa Bonseu, but he filled in OK for Lubos Kubic that day). New England right back, John Harkes, had a particularly miserable time dealing with a 33-year-old Hristo Stoichkov and a 17-year-old DaMarcus Beasley.

14. Chicago 0 New England 3; April 27, 2005
This game totally sucked. We got absolutely creamed in front of a crowd that was mostly waiting for a Mexico vs. Poland game. I only put it here, because after watching New England's rookie #2 for about 15 minutes, I thought this might be one of the best American soccer players I'd ever see. I'm glad I was right, but I'm gladder the Fire don't have to play against Clint Dempsey anymore.

13. Chicago Fire 5 New York Red Bulls 2; October 23, 2008
Probably the best performance of the Blanco era. Chris Rolfe scored a hat trick, but in the post-game interview answered that his favorite goal of the night was the one by Daniel Woolard, a fringe player who had just come back from an injury. This would probably be higher on the list if I hadn't had to stay home sick and watch it on TV.

12. Chicago 2 LA 1; August 23rd, 2000
US Open Cup semifinal

Speaking of games I had to watch on TV, I didn't even live in Chicago when I saw this game on TV in a bar in Alabama. I have no idea why it was on and nobody was paying attention to it until a crazy last ten minutes that saw LA score against a ten-man Fire, then the Fire miraculously hit LA back when the game looked over. It ended with the entire bar going crazy as Josh Wolf scored the winning goal and celebrated with Peter Wilt behind the goal. At least that's how I remember it. It's entirely possible I was still the only person in the bar paying attention to it.

11. Chicago 7 Kansas City 0, July 4, 2001
In 2000, Chicago somehow made Tony Meola look like a professional goalkeeper in the MLS Cup Final and became one of the best teams to not win a championship. The next season, the Fire got some measure of revenge by running up the score in front of a large 4th of July Kansas City crowd. Meola wasn't in goal, and to his credit, backup goalie Bo Oshoniyi was always good-natured about the chants of 7-0 that Fire fans would subject him to in the following years.

10. Chicago 2 New York 2, October 5, 2005
Not a lot of people remember this one. A pretty lackluster game saw the Fire losing 2-0 to Bob Bradley's New York Metrostars. The Fire threw everybody forward during an outrageous injury time blitz that managed not one, but two goals. The equalizer came from rookie Fire defender Jack Stewart. Do any of you guys remember Jack Stewart? When the PA announced that other scores had improbably gone the Fire's way and they had just clinched a playoff spot with two games remaining, there was a mixture of disbelief and relief after the nightmare of 2004.

9. Chicago 2 Dallas; 1 July 21st, 2001
The Fire's first major rival was the Dallas Burn and this was the most dramatic, intense game of that rivalry. A strong crowd of 20,000 were on hand to see the Burn go ahead on a tricky play where Burn midfielder Ariel Graziani snuck back onto the field after being treated for an injury. The Fire equalized with a last minute penalty that had Dallas fuming. As controversial as the first two goals were, the last goal was pure class as Eric Wynalda headed in a brilliant cross from Hristo Stoichkov to win the game in sudden death.

8. Chicago 3 LA 1; September 25th, 2008
Though it wasn't quite the event David Beckham's first appearance at Toyota Park was, his second appearance featured a vintage performance from the Blanco team in front of a sellout crowd, with two goals from Rolfe and one from Mr. White himself. I heckled Beckham during a corner by shouting, "You only appeal to the casual fan!" It drew a couple of laughs.

7. Chicago 1 New England 0, November 14th 2003
I had just been in a fairly serious fire of my own. My apartment building had burned down and I was staying with friends, wearing mostly borrowed clothes. That month was a blur and I don't remember much about the game. But it was a welcome respite to sit through a tense -- if not exciting -- playoff game capped off by an overtime goal from Chris Armas to send the Fire to the MLS Cup Final. Chris Armas deserved that moment more than anyone and seeing it happen helped make it seem like the world sort of made sense again.

6. Chicago 3 LA 1, September 27, 2006 US Open Cup Final
I think this is the only time the Fire won silverware at Toyota Park. The Fire had an incredible start, going up 2-0 in the first ten minutes. The game got closer, as LA hit one back, but a Tony Sanneh breakaway was finished by Thiago to put the game beyond doubt. This was the year I was convinced Justin Mapp was going to be a US National Team Player for years to come. I was way off on that one.

5. Chicago 1 A.C. Milan 3; July 27, 2005
Don't let the score line fool you. The Fire totally owned AC Milan for 60 minutes, and it was only when Dave Sarachan decided to give his bench players a chance in a friendly that the Fire went behind. Sometimes that "it's only a friendly" excuse works both ways, EuroSnobs. Chris Rolfe totally owned Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Jaap Stam, three of the best defenders in the world at that time. This was also the best performance in the Fire's sky blue, Chicago Flag uniforms.

4. I Have No Idea; Sometime around 2005/2006
At some point in the mid '00s, Section 8 started singing a song in tribute to Costa Rican striker Andy Herron called "Andy Herron Sleeps Around." Word got back to them that Andy Herron -- and more importantly Mrs. Andy Herron -- were a little upset by the song. A little while later they debuted a new song, "Andy Herron Loves His Wife." I don't know which game that was, but it was one of the best Fire games I've ever been to.

3. Chicago 4 DC United 0; October 30, 2005
I turned 30 that day and watched this game at the Globe Pub. This was a team of smart veterans like Jesse Marsh and CJ Brown mixed with promising youngsters Chris Rolfe, Logan Pause, and Nate Jaqua. They never looked like world beaters, but could role up their sleeves and squeak out a win. So, it was beyond surprising when they absolutely demolished a DC United team that had just won the Supporter's Shield, and looked like Barcelona doing it. To cap it off, the fourth goal was a blazing volley from the unlikely source of Jesse Marsh. Later that night, I got really drunk and threw up in my girlfriend's sink. It was a great birthday.

2. Chicago 1 LA 0; October 21, 2007
The league's first official Designated Player, David Beckham, drew a sellout crowd to watch his LA Galaxy match up against a Chicago Fire and Cuahtemoc Blanco, unofficially the league's first good Designated Player. There were a few girlish screams directed at Beckham during warmups and I was worried I was in a crowd that didn't know or care much about sports. But when Beckham subbed on the entire stadium booed him. I've never been prouder of a Chicago crowd in my life. The game itself was full of drama. Both teams were fighting for their playoff lives. It went down to injury time, when John Thorrington, a guy that used to shine Beckham's shoes as an apprentice, scored ito put the Fire into the playoffs. Thorrington's length of the pitch goal celebration run might be the most iconic image in Chicago Fire history.

1. Chicago 2 Toronto FC 1; July 12, 2008
But that wasn't Thorrington's most important goal. This came in a midseason game against Toronto FC the next year. The Fire had completely dominated play, but missed chance after chance. I was thinking about going to a party after the game, but was so frustrated I thought I'd just calling it a night. Then Thorrington scored an injury time winner and I felt like celebrating so I went to the party and met my wife.

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Joel / October 4, 2012 12:41 PM

This is good stuff. Loved that it was yours and biased , thatnks for sharing. There will be plenty of folks sharing their own top15's at the Chicago History Museum, Monday night. See you there? Hope so!

Dan / October 4, 2012 10:31 PM

Fantastic. Thanks for putting it together.

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