Tuesday’s soccer news starts with the image issue for MLS clubs. For the 2022 season and its move back to Soldier Field, the Chicago Fire debuted a new crest. It didn’t go well. Faced with fan backlash while playing through a strange season, the Fire’s management acted. The club would get another new badge closer to the original. Unveiled in June, the Fire started offering merchandise with the new logo on Monday.
Chicago reconsidering an unpopular move is important in a league where decisions can feel forced on a fanbase for a variety of reasons. North American pro sports teams in general are rarely democracies when it comes to big picture decisions. That gets more difficult in Major League Soccer’s single-entity system. A club listening and then acting is important.
The Fire’s situation was somewhat unique because of the change in investor/operator and home stadium. Spending heavily to move back to Soldier Field is now its own interesting scenario. With the stadium’s primary tenant now considering a new stadium in the suburbs, what happens with the Fire at Soldier Field is a different question. As potentially the only team playing there full time, their priorities should matter more.
For the team on the field, it’s another transition. Following his first game as interim head coach, Frank Klopas spoke well of his predecessor Raphael Wicky, dismissed on September 30.
“I mean, disappointed, obviously,” Klopas said. “I mean, how can you not be disappointed? First of all, Rapha and I worked together, almost, for two years. I know how hard the guy worked. I know how much he cared. He’s a great human being, and I know that he never left any stone unturned to make sure that we tried to be always prepared. He worked tirelessly. At the end of the day, we know the business. You know, the results were not there, we all know. But you know, you always look at the coach but there’s responsibility on everyone. It’s not just on one person.”
Klopas was Wicky’s assistant, so he had a first-hand look at what went into trying to turn the Fire around. In 12th-place following a 3-1 loss at 13th-place Toronto, Chicago is unlikely to make up what’s currently a 13-point gap between then and a playoff spot. That’s the polite way of saying that 2021 should extend their streak of missing the playoffs to four seasons. That would match the 2013-16 run of playoff misses, turning every offseason into a rebuild.
Constantly needing to reconsider options is a drag on any team. MLS may be a forgiving league when it comes to quick turnarounds, but that also increases the pressure on organizations unable to get that right. With the stadium move and rebranding, it becomes a scenario of moving parts. You need the team on the field to find success, which means playoff contention across the season. That’s the minimum to drive the interest for a return to the Lakefront and a rebranding. Chicago hasn’t gotten there yet, once again facing an offseason of questions familiar and some unique to this moment in Chicago professional sports.
Also in the soccer news, the NWSL Players Association released a new statement confirming that the schedule will resume on Wednesday. “We have taken the weekend’s pause to evaluate. We acknowledge that we will not process the pain of the last several days in one weekend or one week. In the midst of statements that leagues and clubs are quick to release, we have been listening to ourselves, and to one another. Today, we stand with Mana, Sinead, and Kaiya as they continue to tell their stories. We have made the decision to proceed with Wednesday night’s scheduled competition, but our demands will be forthcoming.”
SI’s Brian Straus works through the differences in the September and October USMNT rosters. The Athletic’s Sam Stejskal and Paul Tenorio focus on playing time. FourFourTwo’s Nick Harper tells the stories of short times in charge at English clubs. Football365’s Jason Soutar talks to Lille’s Jose Fonte about Lionel Messi in Ligue 1. The Guardian’s Jason Soutar looks back at who that outlet thought were emerging players in 2016. El Pais’s Santiago Segurola profiles Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong.
Wednesday’s Soccer TV
Nations League on ESPN2: Italy vs Spain at 2:45pm ET.
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Logo courtesy of the Chicago Fire