Fire

Fire alarmed by defeat in USOC semifinal: 'We were outplayed'

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Fire alarmed by defeat in USOC semifinal: 'We were outplayed'

A second-half goal from Sébastien Le Toux - backed by a commanding, collective display - was enough to see the Philadelphia Union past the Fire, 1-0, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal at PPL Park Wednesday night, effectively eliminating the Men in Red from the 102nd edition of the tournament.  

"It was very disappointing," Fire head coach Frank Yallop said. "Aside from a couple spells in the first half and spaced out through the game, we were outplayed tonight; which is alarming. We needed to get up for the game. Our training has been good and we talked about [winning this game]. You've got to go out and perform and give everything you have, and it didn't seem like we did that. To put in a performance like that in a semifinal is not good."

After experiencing a 1-0 loss at the Portland Timbers in MLS regular season play last Friday, Yallop opted to make one change, giving Gilberto - filling in for Jason Johnson - his first start since signing on as the club's third Designated Player during the summer transfer window. The Brazilian - deemed fit and in good condition prior to kickoff - was forced off in the 21st minute, however, with what was confirmed as a right thigh contusion, a low blow as the Fire lacked a substantial attacking dimension on their way toward logging their 20th road loss in all competitions dating back to July 2014.  

A somewhat frantic start to the match saw both sides feel each other out before establishing any sort of concrete possession, with the Union thoroughly dominating first half proceedings. Jim Curtin's side posted seven shots on goal and 16 crosses, forcing a back four comprised of Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz and Joevin Jones to string 22 clearances together in a predominantly defensive outing. 

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Midfielder Cristián Maidana was at the heart of several of the host's moves, forcing an early, but comfortable save from Sean Johnson in the eighth minute with a left-footed curler. 

The Argentine's presence was felt again, cutting inside on a static David Accam and firing a low shot away, which was tipped off the post by Johnson and spit out to C.J. Sapong, whose follow-up hit the outside of the net in the 24th minute. Johnson up to the task again two minutes later, this time denying Brian Carroll as the Fire continued to live dangerously and invite pressure.

In the 37th minute, Le Toux’s sliding cross made its way to Sapong, whose complicated attempt at a backheel flick to beat Johnson inside the six-yard box escaped him. On the stroke of halftime, the visitors aimed to hit back through Accam, who sped past Union defender Richie Marquez and burst through on goal, drawing a kick save from 'keeper John McCarthy at the near post to close out a largely forgettable first half for the Fire.

[RELATED: Fire 'primed and ready' for 'massive' USOC semifinal vs. Union]

The second 45 saw Yallop's men show a little more verve, matching the Union in possession stats, but ultimately not doing enough to ruffle the hosts as the Union - after whittling away at the Fire back line - found their match-winner in the 74th minute.

After sidestepping a few defenders, Le Toux collected a loose ball at the top of the 18 and planted a left-footed strike off the right post and in to seal the Union's berth to the final hurdle: the club's second consecutive appearance in the Open Cup final.

While the Men in Red look to overcome Wednesday night's defeat, it's all to play for in regular season action as both sides butt heads at PPL Park Sunday night.

"Our guys are devastated with the result, but we need to get ourselves ready for Sunday," Yallop added. "Sunday's going to come quickly so we need to get ready for that and pick the bones out of this one, because it wasn't good." 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster (Mike Magee, 77'), David Accam (Jason Johnson, 58'); Shaun Maloney; Gilberto (Kennedy Igboananike, 21')

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.