Newsletter

The Chicago Fire are back! (In the city, at least)

Kevin Kaduk
Kevin Kaduk

Hello, frents!

If you’re Catholic and were planning on trying to use the Impossible Whopper loophole each Friday starting today, I have some bad news for you.

But I also have some good news: There’s a packed Minute for you this morning, filled with plenty of news from each team but no meat (or plant-based meats).

Let’s get to it.

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The resurrection of the Chicago Fire?

So the Chicago Fire kicks off its season in Seattle on Sunday and it’s a big year for the franchise. Not only is the MLS celebrating its 25th season, but the Fire are moving back to Soldier Field after 14 seasons of making people travel to a suburb they’d otherwise have no reason to visit. Combine that with a new owner, a new look and the Fire have some momentum for the first time in what seems like forever.

Considering it may have been awhile since you’ve paid attention to the team, I’m here to answer some questions.

Are you a Fire fan?

Ha! Far from it. I’m an extremely casual fan of the sport. I enjoy the World Cup every four years but don’t have time or the inclination to follow the European leagues. I did enjoy rooting for the Fire in its first 10 years of existence and would even show up at Soldier Field for a game or two a season. (Shoutout to Piotr Nowak and Hristo Stoichkov.)

What happened?

The team moved out to Bridgeview, a place I almost immediately wanted to leave after getting off I-55 for my first and only game there. The team was sold to a new owner, a once-proud franchise fell to the bottom of the MLS and there was little to no reason for a casual fan to make a night out of a trip to Bridgeview. Judging from the fact the Fire completely disappeared from any casual sports discussion in Chicago, I don’t think I was alone in this feeling.

So now the team has a new owner?

Yep. Joe Mansueto is the billionaire founder of Morningstar and a big soccer fan. He purchased 49 percent of the club from Andrew Hauptman in 2018, then closed a purchase for full control last summer. This is his first full year in charge.

What changes has he made?

The biggest is obviously the move back to Soldier Field, which happened after the Fire struck a $65-million deal to amend its lease at SeatGeek Stadium. It’s a clutch move because bringing the team back to the city puts it so closer to so many passionate soccer fans. If places like Atlanta, Kansas City and Seattle can put together memorable atmospheres for each match, it can happen here too. First home match is March 21 against Atlanta.

The move isn’t the only change, though. There’s a new manager, a new front office and new logo and kit. Some Fire fans have complained out the new logo and uniforms, but let’s be honest, the team was in need of a major brand refresh given where it stands with local fans.

WGN will also televise 24 of the team’s 34 games, which should be great for reintroducing the team to fans who lost interest over the past decade.

Wait, isn’t this going to ruin the turf for the Bears?

Ah right, the important stuff. Barring any playoff contests, the Fire only have three matches at Soldier Field after September 1. The Sun-Times reported last year that the Bears have a five-day window before any home game, meaning the Fire’s schedule can still change once the NFL schedule comes out. The Bears can also request a resodding at any time.

So how will the Fire be this season?

I’m not going to pretend like I know enough to break down their chances. But I am smart enough to point you toward this good breakdown from Hot Time In Old Town, SB Nation’s Fire blog or this preview from MLSSoccer.com.

The main takeaway: The team has a lot of work to do to get back to the days of 1998-2003, when the Fire won MLS Cup and made visits to two other Finals.

Where’s the Midway Minute logo for the Fire?

Hey, those cost money you know! But I do eventually want to commission Minute logos for both the Fire and the Sky.

Are you going to lose all your readers from Bridgeview after this newsletter?

Probably. But I’ll probably pick up a few Fire fans in the process. It’s going to be an interesting season and I hope the Fire take a few steps back toward where they belong.

Know a Chicago soccer fan who’d enjoy reading this?

Thursday’s results

Hawks 5, Lightning 2
Hoo boy, this one was fun. Rookie Dominik Kubalik scores his first career hat trick with three goals in the third period. He has 29 goals on the season, which will likely jump start some Calder Trophy talk.

Illinois 74, Northwestern 66
The Illini move to 18-9 with Indiana coming to town on Sunday. Let’s check in and see how things are going with the Hoosiers …

Current status: Creanface.

Spring training
Rangers 13, Cubs 1
Happ and Schwarber must’ve drawn the short straws to take long bus ride and appease the Cubs fans who showed up in Surprise for this one.

Sox 6, Mariners 5
Sox rally with five runs in the last three innings

Weekend schedule

Today
Spring training
Indians at Sox (2:05)
Cubs at Padres (7:40, Marquee)

Saturday
Bulls at Knicks (4 pm, NBC Sports Chicago)
Hawks at Panthers (5 pm, NBC Sports Chicago+)
DePaul at Butler (5:30 pm, FS1)

Spring training
Brewers at Cubs (2:05, Marquee)
Sox at Rangers (2:05)

Sunday
Indiana at Illinois (1 pm, BTN)
Fire at Sounders (2 pm, ESPN)
Northwestern at Nebraska (3:15 pm, BTN)

Spring training
Mariners at Cubs (2:05 pm)
Sox at Angels (2:10 pm)

Thursday brought plenty of Bears news from Indianapolis with several sources reporting the Bears are set on bringing in an experienced veteran quarterback to handcuff with Mitch Trubisky. As Silvy correctly put it, “gotta be good enough to push Mitch, but bad enough to not be automatic starter when acquired. Keenum, Mariota, or Dalton.”

• The Bears are also expected to be involved in the bidding for Falcons TE Austin Hooper once free agency begins, writes the Sun-Times Jason Lieser, but it remains unclear if they’ll have enough cap space to afford him.

The Bulls had more — what else? — injury news on Thursday. Coby White missed practice after hurting his back during warmups and his status for Saturday’s game against the Knicks remains unclear.

The news wasn’t as good for Luke Kornet, who will likely miss the rest of the season with the ankle sprain and foot fracture he took during practice last week.

Wendell Carter Jr., meanwhile, is expected to return against the Knicks. Denzel Valentine could also rejoin the time.

The Cubs announced that lefty reliever Brad Wieck had surgery for an abnormal heart flutter and is out indefinitely.

• Bad news for those of us who are YouTubeTV subscribers: The streaming service said it’s unlikely to carry Marquee Network as its battle with Sinclair has turned bloody. YouTubeTV is pulling all of Sinclair’s regional sports networks from its offerings, which not only affects fans of the Cubs, but the Yankees, Cardinals and many more teams. They could mean it or this could just be a negotiating ploy.

I’d say stay tuned, but it sounds like most of you already are.

It didn’t take Robin Lehner long to start whining about his time in Chicago. (@Mario_Tirabassi)

Jeremy Roenick went on McNeil & Parkins to talk about his firing from NBC Sports and he didn’t hold back. “I think anybody (that) knows the situation and knows me knows I got one of the biggest raw deals of all time.” (670 The Score)

Jeff Agrest on why NBC Sports Chicago isn’t showing more Sox spring training games (Sun-Times)

Blago is selling personalized $100 video greetings on Cameo. Anyone up for pooling a C-note to get him to do a Midway Minute commercial?

“Midway Minute … it’s a f*****g valuable thing.” (Tribune)

That’s it for today. Have a fantastic weekend and thank you for being a #frentofthenewsletter



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