Fire

After win vs. RBNY, Fire crave encore performance at Orlando

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After win vs. RBNY, Fire crave encore performance at Orlando

"Sharp." "Fast." "Attacking."

When asked to describe the stark contrast between the Fire's 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids and 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls, rookie Matt Polster was quick to perceive the disparities, highlighting the response his teammates showed in putting together a three-goal effort for the fourth time in regular season play this year.

"I thought we were the better side against Colorado, but unfortunately, we let a goal in early and they just packed it in," said the 22-year-old on Friday, after learning of his call-up to the U-23 U.S. camp

In essence, the two games - both played at Toyota Park within a span of four days - epitomized the Men in Red's season to date: following up a discouraging result with an encouraging performance, and a desirable scoreline to match it. It's happened more than once this season.

Frank Yallop's men countered a season-opening, three match losing skid with three wins on the trot, followed up back-to-back draws against New York City FC and Columbus Crew SC with a 3-0 drubbing of the Montreal Impact to round out May and built on a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo with their first-ever win against Seattle Sounders FC eight days later.

[RELATED: Fire wary of 'big, big' hill to climb to keep playoff hopes alive]

The list goes on, and, after dethroning the Red Bulls and ending their six-match unbeaten run on Wednesday night, the Fire (7-13-5, 26 points) are craving an encore performance against Orlando City SC (7-12-7, 28 points) Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl (6:30 p.m. CT; CSN+), which marks the beginning of a three-game road trip.

"We've got to feel good about ourselves from Wednesday, and hopefully we're nice and fresh," Yallop said Friday. "They [Orlando] didn't have a midweek game; they had a friendly, but the starters didn't get a midweek game. It's always a little bit in the back of your mind, but our guys are buoyant and ready, and can't wait for the game."

As it stands in the Eastern Conference standings, the Fire have a game in hand on Orlando City, who've shipped 13 goals in their last four games - not including a 3-1 loss in an exhibition against USL's Louisville City FC. With both sides on the outside looking in - the Men in Red sitting two points adrift of a playoff berth - it's all to play for. 

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]

While the Fire enter Saturday night's clash against Adrian Heath's side behind an inspiring display against a red-hot Red Bulls team, the scene changes as six of their nine remaining fixtures will be played away from the confines of Toyota Park. In 11 regular season matches this year, the Men in Red have won none, lost seven and drawn four, a record that stretches further than just the 2015 campaign.

It's a statistic and narrative of the team's poor away form - winless since July 2014 - that suggests an inability to put the finishing touches on predominantly committed performances. If anything can been learned from results league-wide, the right blend of endeavor, clinical finishing and, perhaps a stroke of luck along the way can see any team coming away with a favorable result on the road.  

"It just goes to show how some of these other teams have done not so well either," midfielder Michael Stephens added of the parity in MLS. "The fact that we're only two points off is pretty shocking, but it is what it is. A lot of these teams in the bottom of the East, we keep beating each other and then a lot of the teams at the top of both conferences keep winning. ... There's still so much to play for."

Viewing information:

Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire

Kickoff time: 6:30 p.m. CT

Where: Citrus Bowl; Orlando, Fla.

Broadcast: CSN Chicago Plus    

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

Chicago isn't hosting the 2026 World Cup, but fans should still be excited

After failing to qualify to play in this summer’s World Cup, the United States’ pain was alleviated on Wednesday morning after earning a joint bid to host the 2026 World Cup.

But why is this bittersweet for Chicagoans?

Even though the World Cup will be hosted by the U.S., Mexico and Canada in eight years, matches will not be played in Chicago.

The city chose not to be one of the potential hosts of the world’s largest sporting event, despite using Soldier Field as a venue for the 1994 World Cup.

One of the reasons could be the low seating capacity of Chicago’s historic stadium. Soldier Field would be the second smallest spot out of any World Cup host option, seating only 61,500. The massive competition also draws enormous crowds, possibly causing logistical concerns for a highly-populated place like Chicago.

Ten out of 17 different cities in the United States will be gifted the opportunity to host 2026 World Cup games. The list includes Cincinnati (Paul Brown Stadium), Kansas City (Arrowhead Stadium) and Nashville (Nissan Stadium), which are the closest domestic locations to Chicago.

The bright side is that fans from the Midwest won’t have to travel very far to see a match. For bigtime soccer fans in the Chicago area, having the chance to attend world-class matches in United States could be exciting enough.

Out of the 80 games taking place in 2026, 60 of them will be located in the United States.

Can this bid with Mexico and Canada at least help the relevancy of U.S. Soccer in the Chicago area?

The U.S. men’s national team missed this year’s World Cup at a very unideal time, just when it seemed like the sport of soccer was gaining more and more popularity in the United States.

Plus, the United States might not even get an automatic bid to play in their own World Cup as hosts.

But becoming a member of the first trio in FIFA history to host the World Cup, coupled with the expanded 48-team field in 2026, could help the United States retain the fans they have across the nation and around Chicago.

The World Cup might not be coming to the Windy City, but Chicagoans will still have something to be excited about in 2026 with games being played right around the corner. If the U.S. can qualify for the upcoming World Cups, having the tournament in North America will be much sweeter.

Until then, the 2018 World Cup kicks off this Thursday night in Russia.

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

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@JTHAZZARD

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

Portillo's has become a staple in the Chicagoland area due to its popular hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and now, its soccer jerseys.

OK, maybe one of these does not belong with the others. Regardless, Twitter user @JTHazzard created mock-up soccer jerseys mashing MLS teams and restaurants based in that team's city, and the Portillo's jersey is sweet. 

From the Portillo's logo taking center-stage to the picnic blanket pattern to the discrete Chicago Fire logo, this jersey is absolutely brilliant. The only change this writer would make is including the logo below instead.

Valspar is the current sponsor featured on the Fire's uniforms. If the team ever needs a new sponsor, though, Portillo's would be an excellent replacement.