When the Fire announced their move to Soldier Field, one question was about how the playing surface could handle soccer games during the Bears’ season.
An answer is coming.
On Sunday, the Bears beat the Giants at the lakefront. Now that same field will host two high-level soccer games in less than a week, starting Wednesday as the Fire (2-7-3, nine points) welcome the Dynamo before a Sunday match with Atlanta United. This adds another variable for the Fire, who are still getting acclimated to their new home.
During a video conference last week, Fire coach Raphael Wicky didn’t seem to know what to expect from the field so soon after a Bears game.
“Yeah, you guys tell me,” Wicky said to the media. “I don’t know, you have probably already experienced that in the early years of Chicago Fire; I have never, so I can’t give you an answer to that, and also, it’s out of my control.”
Wicky, though, knows what an NFL game can do to a field.
“Usually a field is pretty beaten up after an American football game but there are people who will work on the field, so we just have to trust these people that they put the field in good shape, and all the rest is --- I can’t do anything against that,” Wicky said. “If it’s going to be a bad field, then it’s going to be a bad field and we play on that bad field. There’s nothing I, as a head coach, I can do right now, and I am not losing, actually, too much energy on that. It’s going to be a first for me, as well. I’m going to be looking forward to see how it is.”
In soccer, the playing surface is of the utmost importance. A level field with shorter grass allows for a quicker game. On that quality of turf, passes can move smoothly, making them more predictable and easier to receive.
But if the field isn’t great Wednesday, it will be equal for the Fire and Dynamo (3-3-6, 15 points). And the league-worst Fire need points, regardless of the turf.
“Yeah, we know that even going into it, the grass is a little bit longer because we know that the guys play there,” Fire midfielder Ignacio Aliseda said through a translator. “And yeah, we have some concerns obviously because that sport uses cleats that are longer than ours and we know that they step on the field differently, so that could cause some holes or some inconsistencies on the field. But the reality is, we have to go out and play on the field we play, wherever we play, it’s not an excuse. The field isn’t an excuse. We just go out there and enjoy the moment.
“So even if there are some inconsistencies on the field or there’s a divot here or there, we just close our eyes and enjoy our moment because that’s our field and that’s where we play.”
NOTE: MLS released the remainder of the Fire’s schedule Tuesday. D.C. United visits on Oct. 11, Sporting Kansas City comes in on Oct. 17, the Red Bulls play at Soldier Field on Oct. 24, and the Fire wrap their home slate against New York City FC on Nov. 8. Meanwhile, they will travel to play Montreal (Oct. 3, at Harrison, New Jersey), Sporting Kansas City (Oct. 7), Minnesota United (Oct. 14), Philadelphia (Oct. 28) and Nashville (Oct. 31).