Get ‘Fired’ up for soccer

What I don’t know about the game of soccer would fill an encyclopedia, however, I did make a promise. My 5-year-old played soccer for the first time this spring and begged to see a “real” game. Luckily, since Chicago is home to Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, we had only to await the next home stand.

Photo courtesy of Chicago Fire.

Midfielder Marco Pappa and the Chicago Fire dazzled Alena’s boys.

I had heard from friends that Fire games were especially fun for kids, with activities and games provided by the team. Before every game, kids can visit the “Fire Zone” to race through an inflatable obstacle course, try their hand at penalty kicks or goal tending and climb aboard a real fire truck. The team’s mascot, Sparky, makes frequent visits and happily poses for pictures.

My sons were so ramped up by the time we took our seats that I feared they wouldn’t be able to sit still.

I should not have worried as soccer games are not really for sitting. Team introductions commence with a rousing fireworks show. Huge screens and loud music get the crowd fired up. Then each team member enters the field holding the hands of young soccer players. Youth players unfurled the American flag and played a mini game during half-time, excellent ways to honor the popularity of youth soccer.

While we didn’t understand some of the nuances of the game, it moved fast enough to keep us engaged. We were surrounded by avid fans who knew good calls from bad, clueing us in to how and when to cheer. Best of all, the team has a devoted musical cheering section who chant, sing, play instruments and keep the crowd “in the moment” for the entire game. They were as entertaining as the game itself.

The Fire’s home turf is Toyota Park in southwest suburban Bridgeview. Parking at the stadium is $17 and food and drink are outrageously expensive, so prepare yourself. The Fire offers a Family 4-Pack for $79, which includes admission, four hot dogs and four sodas. At a $61 savings, this is a great deal for a fun night of professional sports in the city.

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