Bye week allows Bliss to fine-tune Fire, observe trialists


Bye week allows Bliss to fine-tune Fire, observe trialists

After securing their first win since Aug. 26 last weekend, the Fire were back on the training field for four straight days and closed out the week with a competitive, full-field scrimmage on Friday.

Between their result against the New England Revolution and final away fixture of the season against D.C. United, the Men in Red will experience a 15-day break in action, the longest since a 20-day interval in mid-April.

The Fire will take Saturday and Sunday off and take advantage of the bye week before regrouping to prepare for a trip to the nation's capital on Oct. 18 (1 p.m. CT; CSN/CSN+).

Some notes from training:

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Trialists converge

Interim coach Brian Bliss invited five players from the USL ranks to join the team in training: Romeo Filipović (Arizona United), Jamiel Hardware (Saint Louis FC), Parker Maher (Saint Louis FC), James Musa (Saint Louis FC) and Jason Plumhoff (Harrisburg City Islanders).

"Knowing in advance that you're going to lose guys [to the international break] and knowing we had the [bye week], it was an easy solution to get these guys in this week and keep the numbers up," Bliss said.   

Five Fire players in action during international break

David Accam (Ghana), Daneil Cyrus and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), Collin Fernandez (U.S. U-20s) and Matt Polster (United States Under-23s) are all with their respective national teams, and will remain with them until the end of the current international window (Oct. 13).

- Accam is in Washington, D.C. as the Black Stars ready themselves for their international friendly against Canada at RFK Stadium on Oct. 13.

- Cyrus and Jones both featured for head coach Stephen Hart's side in a gritty 2-1 victory over Panama on Oct. 8. Cyrus was a second-half substitute and played 35 minutes, while Jones started and came off at the 77-minute mark. The Soca Warriors return to Port of Spain, Trinidad to face Nicaragua at Hasely Crawford Stadium on Oct. 13.

- Fernandez earned a late call-up to the U.S. U-20s prior to the New England match. Fernandez, along with Fire Academy standout Cameron Lindley, were summoned by head coach Tab Ramos to take part in the Four Nations Tournament. Ramos' outfit was handily dealt an 8-1 loss at the hands of the host nation in Stuttgart on Oct. 6. The U-20s face Scotland on Oct. 9 and wrap up the event with a match against Mexico on Oct. 12.

- Polster helped Andi Herzog's group record three wins in group play and secure a spot in the Olympic qualifying tournament semifinal against Honduras (2 p.m. CT; Telemundo) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The Fire rookie started and featured the full 90 minutes at right back in the opening 3-1 win over Canada on Oct. 1, and at midfield in the comfortable 4-0 victory over Panama on Oct. 6. The 22-year-old also started and played 60 minutes against Cuba, and tallyed an assist in the U.S.'s 6-1 win on Oct. 3.

[RELATED: Doody hopes to take experience gained from USL to MLS, Fire

Injury update

Following a convincing 3-1 victory over the Revolution, Bliss confirmed to reporters that midfielder Razvan Cocis and forward Gilberto took knocks to the ankle and the "top of the foot," respectively. Both were involved in full training throughout the week.

Adaílton (core muscle repair surgery), Ty Harden (right adductor strain) and Sean Johnson (left shoulder labral tear) all continued to do work off to the side. Adaílton engaged in light jogging around the field separate from Harden and Johnson, who progressed to some sprint work along the sideline. Eric Gehrig (navicular stress fracture) - on crutches - watched on from afar.

NOTE: Harden, Mike Magee and Matt Watson will be the three out-of-contract players when the regular season ends on Oct. 25, a club spokesman confirmed.   

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.