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Go To The Best Game In The History Of The Chicago Fire, And Maybe The MLS

By Ben Schuman Stoler in News on Aug 6, 2010 4:30PM

Toyota Park
Say what you want, but this Sunday’s game between our Chicago Fire and the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park (8 PM) is the most important game in Chicago Fire history. Yeah yeah, we’ve been in bigger games. The 1998 MLS Championship and runner-up showings in 2000 and 2003 come to mind, as do the 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006 U.S. Open triumphs; then there are some of the more memorable friendlies (A.C. Milan visiting Soldier Field in 2005 especially). But Sunday night tops it all.

Why? Start with the talent on the field. Of course the Fire have had talented players in the past. Piotr Nowak, Hristo Stoichkov, CuauhtĂ©moc Blanco, the list goes on. But, for the most part, those guys were far and away the best players on the field. This game will have more than just one guy to watch. This might be the most talented game in MLS history. Seriously. Of the twelve designated players ever to play since the 2007 Beckham Rule went into effect to entice international stars stateside, five will be at Toyota Park Sunday. You got NYRB regular Juan Pablo Angel and their two new DP signings Thierry Henry (aka G-o-d, sorry all you Irish readers) and Mexico captain Rafael Marquez, plus new Fire additions Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg. They should all make at least substitute appearances, and that’s more than enough to justify trekking out to Bridgeview.

But the biggest reason why this is such a critical game in US Soccer history is precisely because it’s just a pedestrian MLS regular season match. That these are now MLS regulars - and that’s not to slight the seventeen other, non-DP players that’ll be on the field - bodes well for the league’s future.

Imagine it for a second. Toyota Park, a stadium built specifically for soccer, lit up on national television (ESPN2), packed with a balance of Section 8 diehards and more casual fans from all over Chicagoland - who even cares what the result is? And so what if Brian McBride, Marquez, Henry, and Ljungberg are past their prime? Americans have never gotten used to seeing some of the best players in the world, and this isn’t “OMG Beckham!” or "WTF Blanco!" Sunday night kicks off a new generation of MLS stars.

If America’s ever going to care about soccer between World Cups, we’re going to need a product that’s worth watching. On Sunday, the Red Bulls and Fire will bring a caliber of talent that, should it continue into the future, will bring new fans to the game, and really, you should be there to see it.