The Clean Sheet: Stoking the Fire

the club broke ground on its new stadium in Bridgeview, and it looks absolutely unbelievable. Reading through the planned nuances of the ground, from the seating setup (and perfect capacity of 20,000) to the pub built right into the stadium, it just sounds like a great place to watch soccer and everyone involved deserves nothing but congratulations.

What I like even more is it is set up to really have an urban feel, something that will be a first for an MLS ground. If you have ever been to Highbury (or better yet, the legendary Selhurst Park), there is something so cool about walking in a neighborhood, coming around a corner and then -- bam -- suddenly there is a huge soccer stadium right there. You just can't explain the kind of atmosphere that creates.

So this week in MLS is all about the Chicago Fire. And it's killing me.

Therefore, I feel it is my duty -- on behalf of all FC Dallas supporters who despise the Fire and all Minnesota natives who grew up hating the Bears and the Blackhawks -- to just knock the entire city back down a peg.

Fortunately, that really is not that difficult. I mean, Chicago is supposed to be this grand sports city, and look at the state of it:

• The mighty Bears just signed 63-year old quarterback Jeff George. No, seriously.

• The local baseball hero, Sammy Sosa, is a cheater. Deal with it, Cubs fans.

• Quick, name one member of the Chicago Bulls.

• And of course, from a MLS Cup finalist to missing the playoffs in one year, the fate of the Fire is the only thing in Chicago that fluctuates more than Oprah's waistline.

But as bad a sports city as Chicago has become, the Fire by themselves give you plenty to have a go at. Heck, in a recent newspaper article even the White Sox mascot called the Fire's mascot the "wimpiest" mascot in Chicago.

With all that, I have to admit it really is a shame that some of the most rabid and devoted fans in MLS have to be stuck supporting the Fire. The atmosphere at Soldier Field has been precedent-setting since the team's inception and has remained so over the years.

When I think of Fire fans (after I finish feeling sorry for them for living in such a dreary place and supporting such a dreary side), I think back to their awesome turnout at MLS Cup 2003 at the HDC, where the sheer number of them was impressive enough, but the fact they didn't stop singing from long before the opening whistle to after it was even more memorable.
Hey, I guess somebody in Chicago had to be good at something.

Unfortunately, it turns out the Fire fans are slightly less impressed with me than I am with them, as evidenced by a design-a-scarf contest going on at one of the fan websites (http://www.section8chicago.com/scarfcontest2005.html). Log on and check out the finalists, scroll down a bit and you'll see exactly what they think of me.

Strange, I don't understand what I ever did to them.

Then again, I have to say, I am shocked they could spell my name correctly.

The Clean Sheet runs each Thursday on MLSnet. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com. Send any questions and comments to tcsresponses@yahoo.com


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