Chicago Fire

Former coach Bob Bradley defends Fire as best MLS expansion team ever: 'Somebody lost their mind'

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AP

Former coach Bob Bradley defends Fire as best MLS expansion team ever: 'Somebody lost their mind'

It didn’t take long for Atlanta to make a splash in MLS as an expansion team this season.

The team leads the league in attendance, spent a lot of money on talented young players like Miguel Almiron (who had Arsenal as a suitor) and Josef Martinez (who has Italian Serie A experience), has a very impressive training facility and just debuted in the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

That has led to some people posing the question of whether Atlanta is the most successful expansion team in league history. Seattle is brought up in this discussion, which packed big crowds into CenturyLink Field, won the U.S. Open Cup and made the playoffs in its first season in 2009. However, the Fire won both the Open Cup and the MLS Cup in 1998.

Bob Bradley, who coached that Fire team, defended the Fire’s honor while appearing as a guest on the radio show/podcast Soccer Today. With Bradley now embarking on another expansion adventure in MLS, coaching Los Angeles FC when it will debut in 2018, co-host Steve Davis asked Bradley if Atlanta’s success puts more pressure on him and LAFC.

“That Chicago did team very well as an expansion team, so did Seattle in 2009,” Davis began before Bradley interrupted.

“Wait, wait, wait, Steve,” Bradley said. “Yes, Seattle did very well. Atlanta is doing very well. We won the double, Steve. So when you said we did very well, let’s cut to the chase a little bit. We won the double. As good as Atlanta is doing this year, when there was a headline early in the year that this is the greatest expansion team of all-time, somebody lost their mind.”

Most of the interview with Bradley focused on his preparation for the upcoming maiden season in LA. As a result, he referenced his experience with the expansion Fire frequently. The full interview is worth a listen for the Lubos Kubik story he tells and some other anecdotes about that team.

“That Chicago team probably never got the credit it deserved because there were those people that didn’t like the makeup of the team, or where certain guys came from,” Bradley said. “But inside the league, if you talk to players who played against those Chicago teams, I can assure you the level of respect was very, very high.”

Podcast: How the playoff race is shaping up for the Fire

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USA TODAY

Podcast: How the playoff race is shaping up for the Fire

The Fire have gone three games without a loss so Shane Murray (MLSsoccer.com) and Dan Santaromita discuss the team's recent performances and if the team is back to its best form.

Next, hear from Dax McCarty as he talked to reporters after training on Tuesday.

Finally, Dan and Shane give the latest on the lengthy Fire injury list and look at the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Fire fans are throwing a killer party for the club's 20th birthday

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Fire fans are throwing a killer party for the club's 20th birthday

Most MLS teams are too young to have substantial history, but Fire fans are doing their part to celebrate the 20 years of Chicago Fire soccer.

A group of supporters is putting the work in to throw a party for the club in the vein of a fan convention — except this one isn’t run by a team. The small group of fans from the Fire’s independent supporters’ association, Section 8, is pooling efforts to throw a killer birthday bash and inviting former players and coaches to return for the celebration.

The Chicago Fire 20th Anniversary will take place on Oct. 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center. That’s 20 years to the day since the club’s first general manager, Peter Wilt, announced the name of the then-MLS expansion team at Navy Pier. Wilt will be among the star-studded list of attendees.

“You’re basically taking a fan convention and cramming it into four hours,” said Scott Greene, the chair of Section 8’s board of directors.

Greene was at the anniversary party five years ago and the plan is to continue them every five years. He said the 15th anniversary was “pretty flawless” in the way it ran and they are hoping to replicate that this time around with a similar type of program.

“It was astounding from the fact of what the Fire means for former players,” Greene said. “I think that always takes you aback at their experience at what the Fire means... Their willingness to come out to Chicago to interact with the fans is remarkable.”

The list of confirmed guests already boasts some of the biggest names in the team’s history and more are expected, although still unconfirmed. Five players from the original 1998 team, which won both the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup, are already confirmed to be attending: Lubos Kubik, Diego Gutierrez, Jerzy Podbrozny, Roman Kosecki and current broadcaster Frank Klopas.

“It’s always great, the ability now to reconnect with all the old friends,” Klopas said during the broadcast of the D.C. United match this past Saturday. “I pretty much run into a lot of my old teammates that are still involved in the league here, but the ability to spend some time with Kosecki and Podbrozny, guys that you don’t see that much. It’s fantastic to reconnect with some of our old fans and some of the new fans and talk about some great moments from the past, but also some fantastic moments where the team is now.”

Longtime Fire defender Gonzalo Segares, 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee and 1994 Ballon d’Or winner Hristo Stoichkov also will be attending.

In order to get the players to come to Chicago, Section 8 has worked to raise funds to fly the players in, which is especially tricky with those coming in from out of the country. Greene said ticket sales are the main revenue portion, but they are also accepting donations and there is a silent auction.

The auction includes a game-worn Michael Bradley national team jersey from a Gold Cup semifinal this year. Bradley is the son of the Fire’s first coach, Bob Bradley, and grew up in Chicagoland while his dad coached the team. There is also the press of the Bastian Schweinsteiger poster that ran in the Chicago Tribune.


“It’s a ton of coordination, but from a fan’s point of view it’s pretty awesome to email people,” Greene said. “I sponsored Andy Herron and it’s really cool to interact with him. I’m interacting with my sporting heroes. That’s really cool from being a volunteer and organizing this, the logistics of who’s coming.”

The club has helped provide videos and photos as part of the program and the beer list would make some brew fests envious. Chicagoland breweries Half Acre, BuckleDown (which has a Section 8 Pale Ale), Two Brothers (which will have a 20 Twenty-Plus Pilsner Lager which is named for the founding year of the brewery, which matches the Fire’s founding year) and Goose Island will have beers at the party. Goose Island is making a black lager made exclusively for the party.

Tickets and more information are available through the Fire 20th Anniversary website.