Posts Tagged ‘ Chicago Fire ’

Twin Cities

So visiting the Twin Cities for Atlanta United at Minnesota United is my #groundhopping goal for 2020. I spent some time researching this trip and came up with three options depending on the time available, how much you want to cram in, and if you want to see extra soccer games.

Option #1 In and Out

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Allianz Field, home of Minnesota United

For Atlanta United fans, there are plenty of flights leaving Atlanta on Saturday, August 8, 2019, so you would have Saturday to explore the Twin Cities. I found the Light Rail brewery tour and it looks amazing. There’s also the Mall of America and some other options listed in Option #2.


Kickoff for Atlanta United at Minnesota United is at 2pm CT on Sunday, August 9, 2020.

There is plenty to do around the stadium (options here) or you can pre-game with the Minnesota United Supporters Groups (Dark Clouds and Truth North Elite). Reach out to them ahead of the match for details! More info on how to get to the venue and other options can be found here.

The Metro Light Rail looks like a good option to get around town with stops at the airport, Mall of America and all of the stadiums (Allianz Field, Target Field, TCF Bank Stadium).


Again, several flight options back to Atlanta on Monday, August 10. Definitely possible to get bang for your buck if you fly out early Saturday and come back Monday afternoon. Flying out Sunday morning and coming back on Monday is doable but much more expensive.

Option #2 Extended Stay

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Mall of America

For the same amount for the flight, you can stay a couple of extra days, catch the game and check out the Twin Cities. One of the leaders of the Dark Clouds suggested the following things to do:


Option #3 The Groundhopping option

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Arrive in Chicago on Tuesday, August 4 or Wednesday, August 5. The Chicago Fire are back at Solider Field this year, and they play the San Jose Earthquakes at 7 pm CT on Wednesday, August 5.

I’m not sure if Section 8 (Chicago Fire Supporters Group)/Chicago Fire will be running the Pub to Pitch bus to Soldier Field or if they will do it for a midweek match, but if they do, it’s worth the extra couple of bucks.

The Chicago Fire website has everything you need to know for tickets and Soldier Field.

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The following day, get up and travel to Madison, WI to watch Forward Madison take on League One Miami. It’s about a three hour drive from Chicago and kickoff time at the time of writing is TBD. There is a shuttle service to the stadium and there are parking options at the venue on the team website.

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Then you have two days to kill until Atlanta United takes on Minnesota United and you knock out some of the items listed in Option #2.


As of the time of writing, the lower league teams around in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota have not announced their schedules. Here’s a list if you want to cram in an extra game or two:

Check out my map of US and Canadian soccer venues and hit me up at with any questions or comments.

Scarf Collection


I’ve become a groundhopper, not to the extent of Paul Gerald or Peter Miles or Tony Incenzo, but I take pics, talk to people and write posts about teams, supporters and venues in the United States. But what about swag? As a big kit nerd, the obvious choice would be to get a shirt at each match, but that strategy has a couple of problems: 1) not every team has a merch store or even jerseys for sale; 2) at $55 to $100 a pop, a one stop/one shirt policy could get pricey; and 3) where would I put them all? I don’t have a mancave (yet) and as much as I would love to wear a different jersey every day, society and my workplace frown upon that.

So my solution has been to pick up a scarf at each game I attend. This strategy has paid off in several ways. Scarves are almost always available at games, and if not, readily available on club websites. Plus at $25 to $35 each, this is the better option financially. On top of that, scarves are packable and easy to display.

Here is my current collection:



Favorite Teams

Manchester United–The club team I have been supporting for 20 years. One day I will make it to Old Trafford. C’mon you Reds!!

US Soccer–I have seen several US games over the years , and I continuing to engage my own country instead of wishing I was Croatian or Dutch or almost anything else.

Atlanta United–MLS club kicking off in 2017. I’m a season ticket holder and can’t wait for the team to launch and play their first game at Mercedes Benz Stadium.



Seattle Sounders–One of my first trips and had an awesome time.

Chicago Fire–Used to watch them at Soldier Field. Saw the new home out in the middle of nowhere.

Portland TimbersStood with Timbers Army in a very unique environment.

Columbus CrewSaw one of the first games at this Soccer Specific Stadium and have been several times since.

FC DallasAnother facility out in the middle of nowhere but Dallas Beer Guardians more than made up for it.

DC UnitedGot to see DC United at RFK before they move to the new ground.

Houston DynamoAmazing venue and hopefully the team returns it past glory.

Atlanta Silverbacks–Former NASL team playing in NPSL, I have been to many games and worked for the Reserves team.

Charleston Battery–Fantastic USL team with great supporters playing an intimate venue filled with soccer memorabilia.

Lansing United–The club launched the summer before I left Lansing and is doing things right on and off the pitch.

Detroit City FC–My first taste of real supporter culture. It has been wonderful keeping an eye on this team from the first days.

Nashville FC–Vanderbilt Stadium wasn’t the greatest venue but wonderful fans.

Chattanooga FC–Love going up to Chattanooga. Real passion behind a successful NPSL club.

Birmingham Hammers–Met some fired up supporters for the Hammers’ first season. Looking forward to going back.

Georgia Revolution–Under new ownership, this club is providing players a stepping stone to next level.

Knoxville Force (Scruffy City Syndicate)–Growing club with ardent supporters, playing right in downtown Knoxville.




Juventus–Fell in love with Alessandro Del Piero and followed the bianconeri until I decided to focus my soccer supporting efforts.

MSU Spartans–Went to many a game at DeMartin Stadium during my time in Lansing.

World Cup 2022–My wife won this in a raffle. It’s the scarf from the US 2022 World Cup bid.

American Outlaws Atlanta. I love hanging out with these passionate supporters of US Soccer.

Terminus Legion 2015–Joined this Supporter Group at the intersection of Atlanta and Soccer in 2015 after moving to Atlanta in 2014.

Terminus Legion 2016–Re-upped and run the soccer team and host the Terminus Legion podcast.

The General–Special edition summer scarf produced by Terminus Legion to celebrate the history of Atlanta.

Soccer in the Streets–An amazing organization that brings soccer to underserved youth in Atlanta. Just launched Station Soccer, a pitch on top of a transit station.

Castleberry Hill AC–An organization looking to use soccer to improve their community. Currently trying to build Old Trenholm in the shadow of Mercedes Benz Stadium.



Top three scarves I have come across. . .


I usually buy the team scarf at each match but when I was at the Chicago Fire tailgate, I saw people walking around this scarf and knew that I had to have it. The scarf tweaks the Chicago city flag, using navy blue bands to frame the edges instead of the sky blue and then uses the four red stars through the middle. Great looking piece.


While standing with Timbers Army, I spotted a Battlestar Portlandia. Having just come out of my Battlestar Galactica geek phase, I really loved the merging of pop culture and sport. Doubt I will ever get my hands but one of these but a really slick design.


A scarf from Detroit City FC’s inaugural season is one of my favorite scarves. All the design elements come together, with of color scheme of rouge and dark yellow, a clean font and the argyle print adding a wonderful touch. DCFC has absolutely crushed it from a brand and merch perspective from day one.


If you want to see a real scarf collection, visit Kenny’s Football Scarves. He has over 2000 pieces organized by league and region.

Read more about my groundhops and supporter group interactions at the SoccerNomad blog. Also check out the SoccerNomad podcast, which focuses on Supporter Groups and kit design. Finally follow me on twitter @austinlong1974.

Lansing Kit Nerd

Mid-Michigan United has planted the flag for Kit Nerd.  Not a mind blowing turnout but you have to start somewhere.  The MSU basketball game cut into our numbers, plus the major games—UEFA World Cup Qualifiers and other friendlies, including the drab 0-0 draw between the United States and Scotland—were earlier in the day.

The Black Rose has become the gathering place for MMU Watch Parties so we headed there for the 1st ever Lansing Kit Nerd Gathering.  We put Argentina v Ecuador in the background and settled in.



Hertha Berlin Home




Croatia Home



Erin (my lovely wife)

Chicago Fire Training Top



Donnie came over from Detroit and joined us for a beverage.  Unfortunately he didn’t have a jersey with him.

Thanks to Michael Orr and everyone on the Kit Nerd facebook page for their support.

MatchDay Memory–Summer 2013 Part Four: Labor Day Weekend

As summer came to a close, I checked another MLS stadium off my list. The last time I went to a Fire game, they were still playing at Solider Field before the remodel.  I used to go at least once a year, usually when they played DC United, and I was interested to see Toyota Park, as this was another in the line of soccer specific stadia helping to promote the MLS. So my family went to Chicago over Labor Day weekend to do some sight seeing and check out the Fire.

On the train ride in I listened to a recent Beyond the Pitch episode on the team and their struggles both on and off the field.  The pod dealt with the recent PR firestorm started by the Communications Director before moving on to the current Mike Magee for MVP campaign and ended with what the further might hold for the Windy City club.

Sunday started with the 7:30am CT kick off of Liverpool and Manchester United.  I went to Fado Chicago and the place was absolutely stuffed with people, mostly of the Merseyside persuasion.  Sturridge’s early goal was met with tons of support, which continued until the dying moments when the Reds from Liverpool nervously held on.

The match encapsulated many of the recent frustrations of United.  RvP being insolated; Giggs not providing any impact; Young continuing to be a turnover machine; and the Red Devil attack lacking sharpness.  As I write this, United are supposedly wrapping up the Ander Herrara signing.  Nice player; doesn’t solve the problem.

As for Liverpool, match couldn’t have gone any better.  Early goal protected by an organized team that worked their proverbial socks off.  Coutinho was quite good in the first half, and with more signings made at the close of the window, maybe the club has really turned the corner.

I caught the first half of North London Derby.  Cheeky finish from Giroud but not much else from the Gunners.  Felt that Spurs had the better of the game and probably should have gotten at least a point.

At halftime, I went and grabbed some beers for my trip on the Fire Bus.  These are coaches that go around bars in Chicago, pick up fans and take them to the games.  Fantastic idea.  We all hopped on the bus, cracked open a cold one, and sat back on the road to Bridgeview.  I shared a Rolling Rock with a Frenchmen in front of me, who was in town for a conference.  We chatted about Lyon and Les Bleus and MLS.

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The bus dropped up off at the Section 8 tailgate.  $5 all you can eat Mexican and $1 PBR’s.  Yes please.  I chatted with a couple of supporters and they were very welcoming.  Then it was off to the club store, where I picked up a nice scarf.

chi tailgate

Upon entering the arena, Toyota Park seemed similar to Crew Stadium, with a ring of concessions and standing areas surrounding the lower bowl and a Party Deck at one end of the ground. A couple of differences were the height and coverage of the upper stand.  Toyota Park only had one proper upper level and it was covered unlike Crew Stadium.  This was a big factor as the temperature was near 90 on a sunny day.  My phone died at kick off, so I was unable to get many pics inside the stadium.  FAIL!! Special mention should be made that the match was featured as Hispanic Hertiage Day, and we sat just above Sector Latino, where a hardcore group made noise the entire game.

On a brutally hot day, the hosts started the match strongly but almost went down early as Will Bruin slipped past a defender but Fire netminder Thompson made the early save.  Chicago created more chances as Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall had to scramble away an opportunity from Magee and saved a near post chance from Rolfe. The Fire’s dominance finally paid off 37 minutes in as Jeff Larentowicz nodded in a corner kick which gave Hall no chance.

Chicago continued to create chances in the second half but couldn’t find the insurance goal.  Houston rolled the dice late in the match, pushing players forward with Cam Weaver going up top and Andrew Weaver doing a nice job stretching the field on the left side and delivering service.  Time was ticking away and Ashe’s backheel freed Moffat who drilled it into the upper 90 to level the game.  Chicago had one last chance as Magee whipped in a free kick that Anibaba headed on frame that produced a great save from Hall.

In the end, the Fire dominated the game but dropped two vital points in their playoff chase.  Nine game games remain and currently they are on the outside looking in.  With only three home games remaining, chances are not good. Chicago have won eight and drawn two of their 14 matches at Toyota Park, with only two wins on the road.  Perhaps the key match will be their home game on 9/14 against New England, who site just above the Fire in the table.

As for Houston, the point keeps them ahead of Fire and in control of their own destiny for the fifth place.  The Dynamo were without Ricardo Clark, and I felt that Adam Moffat had little impact on the match until his equalizer.  I also noticed that Brad Davis played wide, and I don’t know if that is normal or not.  Having watched Houston twice this season, I have to say that I am a little underwhelmed.  Technically not that great and their defense seems fragile.  They may scrape into the playoffs but don’t see them doing any damage.

The Section 8 website has some decent merch for sale, especially scarves, and does a decent job of laying out all of the different media options to support the club, including blogs and podcasts.  I checked out the On the Fire recap of the game and Scott Fenwick saw many of the same things I did in terms of tactics and personnel.  His infographic on the possession throughout the game was quite revealing and he had some strong words regarding the perfomances of Chris Rolfe this season.  Also, if you get a chance check out the Matchbook Zine, in particular the 15th Annivesary Edition. Great interview and some fascinating insight into the formation of the club.

Strip Club–BYOB Edition

When I heard the Michigan Bucks were hosting the Chicago Fire in a US Open Cup game in the spring of 2012, I thought, I missed the Carlos Valderrama experience in 1999, so I didn’t want to make the same mistake again.  I immediately got online and picked up two tickets for the game at the Ultimate Soccer Arena in Pontiac, MI.

After having a few beverages with the Motor City Supporters, we headed into the arena and were immediately confronted with a merch table.  $12 for a jersey.  It wasn’t official or match worn but it was a souvenir from what turned out to be a memorable night.  I won’t try to recap the game as Tavio at Motor City Supporters did a great job. The opening goal of the match was scored right in front of us just minutes into the match and from there it was 120 minutes of tension and excitement and disappointment and joy.  The Bucks won 3-2 in extra time and moved on to the round of 16, where they lost to the Dayton Dutch Lions.  The Supporters Section had about 30-50 people standing it, banging drums, singing songs, chanting, making a nuisance of ourselves, while a group from Chicago was doing the same thing on the opposite end of the field.


Two months before the match, the club signed with Admiral to supply their kits in a six year deal.   The cotton top I picked up is very simple, adorned with an embroidered logo of the manufacturer and screened team crest.  I like the green of the kit I found at the Admiral website and may have to pick one those up in the future.


Old Futbol Buffet–Piss on the Fire

When I heard the Michigan Bucks were hosting the Chicago Fire in a US Open Cup game, I thought, I missed the Carlos Valderrama experience in 1999, so I didn’t want to make the same mistake.  So I immediately got online and picked up two tickets for the game at the Ultimate Soccer Arena in Pontiac, MI.

Ultimate is an indoor facility with three full fields, a bar, training facilities, the works.  It’s also where my 30+ team played our State Cup Final last July, so as we walked in (having a few beverages with the Motor City Supporters beforehand of course), I realized that this was happening.  A minor league team was playing a professional team on a field that I played on.

I won’t try to recap the game—Tavio at Motor City Supporters did a great job—but want to share a couple of thoughts regarding the experience and atmosphere.  The Supporters Section had about 30-50 people standing it, banging drums, singing songs, chanting, making a nuisance of ourselves, while a group from Chicago was doing the same thing on the opposite end of the field.

The opening goal of the match was scored right in front of us just minutes into the match and from there it was 120 minutes of tension and excitement and disappointment and joy.  When the finally whistle went, everyone knew that the Bucks had accomplished something.  And now thanks to Dayton’s upset of the Crew, one of these non-MLS teams will be in the QuarterFinals.  Don’t know if I’ll be able to make it back down for the game next week, but you never know.  What a night!

For more information on the competition, listen to Josh Hakala on Beyond the Pitch podcast and visit the site