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With playoff elimination and draw, Fire end SeatGeek Stadium era in fitting fashion

The Fire, who will likely play their home MLS matches at Soldier Field next year, missed the playoffs for the eighth time this decade.

Sunday’s game in Bridgeview was the end of an era for the Fire.
Brian Sandalow, For the Sun-Times

Though it’s possible they could play future U.S. Open Cup games or other matches at SeatGeek Stadium, the Fire’s 2-2 tie Sunday with Toronto FC likely wrapped their time calling Bridgeview home.

Perhaps fittingly, it was also the end of their slim playoff chances.

“In the last two months, I felt that the team was [playing properly],” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “I needed less to explain and to push the guys.”

Over the last portion of the -season, the lineup stabilized and the defense improved. Of course, it was too late.

“I see how we played against a team like Toronto or how we played against other teams like Atlanta, even LAFC,” Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “We are not worse than them in my eyes. They are more consistent and they have maybe a little bit more goals.”

Entering the day four points behind seventh-place New England and needing to be no more than three back heading into Sunday’s finale at Orlando, the Fire required a result. They also needed help from New York City FC, which visited the Revolution.

New England’s 2-0 win eliminated the Fire (9-12-12, 39 points), ending a decade of two playoff

appearances and zero postseason wins. Now the team is expected to return to Soldier Field and begin life under Joe Mansueto.

On Sunday, a boisterous crowd of 17,748 made the ending of an era hard to forget.

“[SeatGeek Stadium] has been a wonderful host and a wonderful home for the Chicago Fire for a number of years,” captain Dax McCarty said. “A lot of great memories here for Fire fans. A lot of great memories here for the players. Obviously some not-so-great memories as well, and that’s just going to be part of the history of this club.”

Before the game, the Fire recognized members of the 2006 team that opened the stadium, including Gonzalo Segares and Logan Pause. The team handed out roster cards reading “Thank You Bridgeview” with depictions of Pause, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Mike Magee and Nemanja Nikolic.

Some supporters behind the south goal wore black and displayed funeral wreaths. After the match, the stadium’s video board read ‘Thank You, Bridgeview!’

Getting a win in that atmosphere, even if it wouldn’t have saved the Fire’s playoff hopes, would’ve meant something to McCarty. But that’s not how things went for the Fire.

“The fans wanted to send SeatGeek out on the right note and they did their jobs,” McCarty said. “Unfortunately, the players, we just came up a little bit short. Wanted to send the stadium off with a win and make sure that we had that good memory of the stadium, even if we didn’t make the playoffs.”