Fire

Fire can't hold onto halftime lead in draw with LA

Fire can't hold onto halftime lead in draw with LA

The Fire had a chance to continue the momentum from Saturday’s win at Montreal, but couldn’t put the finishing touches on a second-straight win.

Instead, the Fire settled for a 2-2 draw at home against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday after the Fire led at halftime.

After a dull first quarter of the match, the game featured four goals, two more called back for offside, a number of close chances and wide open play.

LA’s U.S. national teamer Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 31st minute and the floodgates opened soon after. Zardes pounced on a loose ball in the box with a hard and low shot.

Just three minutes later the Fire (5-11-8, 23 points) equalized with a goal that also required a couple deflections to wind up at the feet of an open shooter. Michael de Leeuw put a header on target and LA goalkeeper Clement Diop came up with the initial save. However, the save bounced off defender A.J. DeLaGarza’s face and landed right to Arturo Alvarez, who scored with a half volley.

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

The Fire completed the turnaround when Luis Solignac was tripped in the box for a penalty kick, which David Accam converted to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the 39th minute.

"I think the way we came back and how fast we did that, I think that’s something that is very positive for us," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Against a great team, a big team, it even counts more. I think also as we said during this year we were working hard to get to this moment where we can actually feel as a real team, a team that can win (against) anyone.”

Even if the Galaxy (9-4-12, 39 points) are arguably the deepest team in the league, LA didn't bring a full strength lineup to Toyota Park. Giovani Dos Santos didn't start, but did eventually score the tying goal, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard weren't even included on the list of substitutes in the matchday lineup and Nigel De Jong was available as a substitute but didn’t play.

Dos Santos connected with another sub, Alan Gordon, for that tying goal in the 69th minute. Gordon centered a ball from the right to Giovany Dos Santos, who scored with his first touch.

"I’m feeling very sorry for our guys, very disappointed that we couldn’t get more from this game," Paunovic said. "I think the performance was fantastic. I think we finally feel we are there, where we wanted to be during all this year."

Earlier in the second half, Chicago had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead when David Accam chased down a long ball and dribbled around LA goalkeeper Clement Diop. Diop came way off his line, but with an open goal in front of him Accam dribbled into the box and passed to Luis Solignac. Solignac missed the shot with two defenders, but still no goalkeeper in his way.

The Fire were unable to put the game away, but did hold an 8-3 edge in shots on target and the Galaxy's only shot on target in the second half was the goal. The Fire also had 51 percent of the possession, which is the third time this season the Fire had most of the possession.

"I know everyone has talked about the whole not winning away and we were able to do it in Montreal," Alvarez said. "It was a great performance overall from everyone so that game alone just kind of gave everyone that boost that we needed. I think it showed in this game as well. Unfortunately it didn’t go the way we wanted to. Then again that’s LA for you, they always find a way to come back into games and they did this time.”

The Fire's draw coupled with Columbus' loss to Philadelphia means the Fire are now tied with the Crew in the Eastern Conference, but remain six points out of the playoffs. The Fire next play Saturday at D.C. United.

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?

portillos.jpg
@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.