Fire

Fire fall to D.C. at Toyota Park, lose fourth straight

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Fire fall to D.C. at Toyota Park, lose fourth straight

What began as another relatively stalwart defensive display from the Chicago Fire ended in a fourth straight defeat in MLS play, as Frank Yallop's side fell 1-0 to Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United Wednesday night in front of 11,833 at Toyota Park.

A rocket from Conor Doyle in the 73rd-minute secured a second win on the trot for the Men in Red's conference rival, as the Fire remained at the bottom of the standings.

"We should be good enough to win games," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "We work hard in the training field, the guys are committed it seems, you don’t know if it really is real deep within them, but I think it is. I have been around awhile, I kind of feel for the guys right now."

Yallop made a trio of adjustments to the side that experienced a 2-0 defeat in Foxborough at the hands of the New England Revolution.

Sean Johnson, earning his first start since the 2-2 draw against New York City FC on May 15, replaced Jon Busch in goal, who appeared in the last five MLS regular season fixtures. Joevin Jones - making his return from international duty with Trinidad and Tobago - occupied the left midfield position in place of Greg Cochrane, who retreated to left back for his second consecutive league start. Chris Ritter also stood in for suspended rookie Matt Polster after putting in 120 minutes against Louisville City FC last Tuesday.  

The opening stages were hardly reflective of some of the sparkling first half performances demonstrated earlier this season as the Fire offered little going forward. The Eastern Conference sides exchanged blows in the early minutes as Jeff Larentowicz, Kennedy Igboananike and Adailton were caught on either side of some chippy fouls, with the Men in Red registering 12 fouls against their counterparts.

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In the seventh minute, Igboananike was released down the right flank by Harry Shipp, only to slice his effort high and wide of Bill Hamid's goal.

D.C.'s Facundo Coria sidestepped Larentowicz at the top of the 18 in the 20th minute and unleashed a stinging, left-footed shot aimed at Sean Johnson, who did well to palm the Argentinian's effort up and over the bar.

Six minutes later, the Men in Red attempted to carve out a meaningful opportunity of their own, but saw a Greg Cochrane cross in the 24th minute easily dealt with by the D.C. defense. The visitors subsequently stormed down the pitch with Jairo Arrieta, who scored the second and third goals to sink Yallop's side three weeks earlier, nearly converting at the other end, forcing another alert save from Johnson.

Igboanaike again struggled to translate his commendable work rate to any profit at the half our mark, as the Designated Player did well to beat Kofi Opare inside the opposition's box before failing to trouble Hamid once again.   

[RELATED: Fire look to avoid four-match losing skid with result vs. D.C.]

The second 45 saw the visitors bring on Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon to help muster more than just a solitary point away from their visit to Toyota Park.

Sustained pressure eventually paid dividends for Ben Olsen's outfit when, with just over a quarter of an hour remaining in the encounter, Conor Doyle hit a rifling first-time shot from 25 yards in the 73rd minute to grab all three points and help D.C. remain atop the Eastern Conference.

"It’s probably the best goal he is going to score and I think tonight that was one of the better goals we have seen here," Yallop added. "It is just frustrating when that happens, it would be nice for one of those to go in for us. Then we can get the ball rolling and the effort from the group tonight was there. We didn’t want to lose the game, the fellows gave me everything they have, they give themselves and the team, the club, and the fans a right good go trying to win the game."

The Fire return with a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match against the Charlotte Independence next Tuesday, while D.C. face Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday. 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Adailton, Greg Cochrane; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Chris Ritter (Mike Magee, 73'), Joevin Jones (Jason Johnson, 46'); Guly do Prado; Kennedy Igboananike.

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.