Chicago Fire eliminated from playoffs in final game at SeatGeek Stadium
The end of the era came in familiar fashion for the Chicago Fire.
In its final regularly scheduled game at SeatGeek Stadium, its home stadium the last 14 seasons, the Fire played to a 2-2 draw Sunday against Toronto FC and was eliminated from contention for the MLS playoffs. It is the eighth time this decade the Fire missed the playoffs.
"We are disappointed that we didn't qualify for the playoffs, but still I must say this game kind of showed exactly how it was with us through the season," said Fire defender Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is out of contract after the season and unsure about his future.
The eighth-place Fire (9-12-12, 39 points) needed to have a better day than seventh-place New England, but New England's 2-0 win over NYCFC sealed the Fire's fate. The Fire concludes the season next Sunday at Orlando City.
"We knew it was a little bit of a longshot, but we still believed," said Fire captain Dax McCarty. "The last, I don't know, maybe seven, eight games, we've been in a pretty good run of form and we'd been playing better. We'd been getting some results to go our way, and then I think every time we got a positive result we couldn't really follow it up with any momentum."
The club can only hope its fortunes under new owner Joe Mansueto improve when it returns to Soldier Field next season. It's possible the Fire could return to SeatGeek Stadium if there are conflicts at Soldier Field or for U.S. Open Cup games.
But to fans as well as current and former players, it was an emotional day.
"It's always mixed feelings, right, because so many great memories are here," said former Fire defender Gonzalo Segares, mingling with fans before the game. "But I played my first ever game with the Fire at Soldier Field, so there's also very good memories over there. It's kind of like a mixed bag for me at this moment, but it's great to be back, see everybody, say hello to everyone, enjoy with the fans."
"It's for sure bittersweet," added former Fire forward Mike Magee, who grew up in the suburbs and joined Segares in the parking lot before the game. "I was at the last game and seeing the stadium today, some of the best memories of my life are at this stadium. ... I think we've all known all along, and me being a Chicago kid, that they had to be downtown."
McCarty called the crowd of 17,748 fans the loudest of the season in southwest suburban Bridgeview.
"The fans wanted to send SeatGeek Stadium out on the right note and they did their jobs," McCarty said. "Unfortunately, the players, we just came up a little bit short."