Brandon Vincent playing with more confidence in his second year

Brandon Vincent playing with more confidence in his second year

Brandon Vincent was not thrown into an easy situation last year.

The Chicago Fire left back was thrust into the starting lineup as a rookie and did so on a last place team.

Vincent made 26 appearances and 24 starts in MLS player last season as part of a defensive unit which allowed the second most goals in the league. This year he has played every minute for the Fire and says he has more confidence in his game.

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things, just my own year of experience, myself just struggling last year,” Vincent said of his improvement from last year to this year. “It’s tough coming into a team, especially when you’re not doing well as a group. That takes a toll on young players. Mentally I’m in a better place. I think the guys in the locker room bring the level up so a combination of a lot of things.”

Vincent had an assist in the Fire’s 3-0 win against Colorado on Wednesday. It was his second assist of the year and the Fire’s fourth shutout of the season.

He set up Nemanja Nikolic on a cross that left Nikolic with an open header.

“Brandon gave me a fantastic ball,” Nikolic said. “In that moment I don’t have a really difficult job. The ball was perfect and in the space between the keeper and the defenders. So that ball for the defenders is the most difficult ball, for the strikers the most easiest.”

Vincent said crossing is something he worked on during the offseason.

“I worked a lot on my own,” Vincent said. “Just putting good balls in the box in good areas and knowing that guys will be in the box to try to get their head on it. The more we can put it in there and put good balls in, the higher chance we have of scoring. Niko is in there always looking so if anybody can get a decent ball in there’s always a decent chance we can score.”

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?


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.