Fire

Fire appear loaded with depth at outside back

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Fire appear loaded with depth at outside back

Over and over again Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez has harped on how center back has been the club’s priority this offseason.

However, outside back might be the position that has undergone the biggest overhaul for both the short-term and long-term future of the Fire.

From last year’s team, Lovel Palmer and Greg Cochrane had their options declined, Joevin Jones was traded and Eric Gehrig, who played some at right back last year, appears more destined to play at center back this season. Only Patrick Doody, who spent most of 2015 on loan with Saint Louis FC and made just seven appearances with the Fire as a rookie, is a returning outside back.

In this year’s draft, the Fire grabbed Stanford left back Brandon Vincent with the fourth pick. That meant competition for Doody, who showed promise at left back in his rookie season. When asked about the competition for playing time after training on Monday, Doody gave the politically correct answer that he would play wherever needed and explained he has played on the right.

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“I am left footed, but I have played both sides,” Doody said. “It’s the same position, it’s just inverted. I think most guys at this level should have the ability to play either. If you’re an outside back you should be able to do OK at each side.”

That versatility could come in handy for Doody, but there also appears to be a lot of competition at right back. Free agent signing Michael Harrington, another left-footed player, has experience playing at both outside back spots and is a nine-year league veteran. He figures to get plenty of playing time this season.

“Left or right,” Harrington said. “It doesn’t matter. Either one.”

[MORE: New faces all over Fire training camp]

Third round pick Vincent Keller played center back and right back at Creighton, but is sliding over to right back as a pro because he is only 5-foot-9. It also appears that 2015 second round pick Kingsley Bryce is now a right back.

Bryce played forward in college at St. Louis University. Last year on loan with Saint Louis FC, Bryce played both midfield and defense. When asked what his position was on Monday Bryce answered without hesitation that he is a right back.

It’s not hard to see why the Fire could see the 22-year-old Bryce as a good option for right back. He’s 6-feet tall, fast and athletic at a position that requires tons of running up and down the sideline. At least physically, he seems capable of handling the demands of an outside back, but the position move isn’t an easy one.

“It’s tough,” Bryce said. “You have to learn to play where they need you. I’m still learning to play out of the back, but I think it helps that I know how to play forward so when I attack it’s something familiar to me.”

So, for now at least, it appears the Fire have five options at outside back. Harrington, 30, is the only veteran of the group, considering even Doody is still largely unproven.

Center back may be the club’s priority as far as acquiring new players, but outside back might be the most interesting competition in training camp.

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.