Fire

Arturo Alvarez takes advantage of first start since July

Arturo Alvarez takes advantage of first start since July

Arturo Alvarez was a bright spot on a bad Fire team last year, but playing time has been hard to come by in 2017.

Alvarez led the 2016 Fire with nine assists and was tied for third on the team with five goals. Once the team beefed up the midfield and added Nemanja Nikolic at striker, moving Michael de Leeuw into more of a midfield role, in the offseason Alvarez has found himself on the bench for most games this season.

He is 15th on the team with 675 minutes played, but with a number of regulars out, the 32-year-old made his eighth start of 2017 in Saturday’s 3-0 win against D.C. Alvarez delivered an assist on the Fire’s second goal, setting up Brandon Vincent’s diving header with a left-footed cross from the right wing.

“You always want to go out there and do a good job and try to help out the team in any way possible,” Alvarez said. “I think I did that tonight.”

[RELATED: Even shorthanded, Fire produce 'encouraging' performance in win]

Coach Veljko Paunovic subbed out Alvarez in the 71st minute, the Fire’s first sub of the match, citing concerns over match fitness due to a lack of recent starts. This was Alvarez’s first start since July 22 and his fourth in 25 games since he started the first four games of the season.

Alvarez now has three goals and two assists on the season.

“He has had a fantastic attitude during the whole year,” Paunovic said of Alvarez. “I think he was always ready and waiting for the opportunity to come. It happened today and he was ready. How many times I think I’ve said that, everyone in our team understands that very well and that’s the strength of our locker room.”

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?

portillos.jpg
@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.