Fire

Fire first-rounder Jonathan Campbell adjusting to life as a professional

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Fire first-rounder Jonathan Campbell adjusting to life as a professional

Brandon Vincent got more of the headlines on draft day as the higher pick, but Jonathan Campbell also figures to be a key part of the Chicago Fire’s future.

The center back who the Fire selected 12th overall in the MLS SuperDraft plays a position of need for the club and is the only young option at the position. While his 2016 role may be to learn the ropes of MLS and being a professional athlete in general while only filling in when needed, Campbell represents an important piece of the longer-term future of the club.

“I don’t think you should look at it as pressure,” Campbell said of being a first round draft pick. “I think it’s just nice that we have a good opportunity here. A lot of change here going on so I think some other guys (in the draft) can go somewhere else that maybe they don’t have very high chances of playing. I think it’s very positive here.”

[RELATED - Fire sign MLS veteran midfielder Nick Labrocca]

The 6-foot-2 defender is getting settled into training as the Fire’s preseason began on Monday. The upcoming trips to Tampa and Portland are just two more stops on a busy stretch of travel for Campbell.

The former North Carolina standout endured the busy month of travel for MLS rookies. First, Campbell made the trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for the MLS Combine. After playing three games in five days, which Campbell described as stressful, he flew to Baltimore for the draft.

“I actually didn’t pack well for the draft weather,” Campbell said. “Obviously going from warm to cold and now I come to Chicago and then we’re going to go to Tampa and Portland. There’s no chance you can pack properly for being in three completely different cities.”

Living out of a suitcase for the time being is the least of Campbell’s worries. He’s been working on preparing himself for his first taste of professional soccer.

“I think the next level just from college to pro comes down to how many plays you can make right versus wrong and just getting that percentage as high as possible,” Campbell said. “That can be in possession or just making the right play defensively. I don’t think guys are going to be that much different athletically. I think you’ll play against some very athletic guys in college, but I think the tactical decisions is the next level.”

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One thing Campbell said he is working on is being more aggressive attacking the ball on offensive corner kicks. He is confident in his ability defensively on corners, but wants to be more of a threat on the attacking end.

As for the team, Campbell believes the Fire need to get off to a fast start to avoid a repeat of 2015.

“As a team, obviously last year was hard for them so I think the main thing is a switch in mentality,” he said. “If you don’t start off on the right foot, I think it can lead to some negative attitudes, but I think we can get off on a good start and that will be very positive for us.”

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.