Following their 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake Arizona to capture the 2014-15 U.S. Soccer Development Academy national championship on July 18, the Chicago Fire Academy Under-18 team racked up a number of accolades on Monday.
In addition to claiming their second USSDA championship in club history -- succeeding the program's U-15/16 title during the 2009-10 season -- U-16 midfielder Djordje Mihalovic, who was summoned for the older age group, was handpicked by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy to the Central Conference Starting XI. U.S. youth internationals Mauricio Pineda and Cameron Lindley were named to the U-18 Central Conference Starting XI. Along with individual acclaim, the Fire collected the U-18 Style of Play award for the Central Conference.
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"I couldn't be happier for the group," said Academy Director Larry Sunderland in a club statement. "Over time, we have built a very collaborative and trusting spirit between the players and the coaches, one in which they were able to take ownership on the field. While these are buzzwords that often are not visible in an end product, this group is very different - they really lived it and you could see it in their play and their connection on the field.
"We spoke of the story they wrote and prior to the game, we all decided what we wanted the last chapter to look like. The players were determined that the last chapter was going to be about a championship, and they did it."
The U-18s will be recognized during halftime of the Men in Red's Eastern Conference clash with the New England Revolution at Toyota Park on July 25.
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.
As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.
The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.
Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.
At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.
Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.