Fire looking to offset 'uncharacteristic' midweek display


Fire looking to offset 'uncharacteristic' midweek display

In a span of four days, the buoyancy garnered from a fortifying home win against the Montreal Impact - a margin of victory last experienced in league play on October 4, 2013 - prefaced the disconsolate feelings left behind from the deflating midweek loss in the nation's capital to D.C. United.

For the Chicago Fire, a streaky team that's yet to establish a foothold in Major League Soccer, games continue to come thick and fast, with Orlando City SC's visit (7:30 p.m. on CSN) denoting the Men in Red's fifth in a chain of seven consecutive versus the Eastern Conference. With a perfect record against conference foes at Toyota Park, the onus is on Frank Yallop's side to generate a firm response.

"For us, now, any home game is a must-win, especially against an Eastern Conference team," said Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp Friday. "Orlando is a good team, but I think we've played - bar one or two games - really well at home. It bodes well for us and hopefully after we get a win this weekend, we figure out how to take our confidence at home out on the road for a 90-minute performance."

Despite a nimble interchange that emanated from Shipp and led to David Accam's third goal of the season - giving the Fire a befitting 1-0 halftime adavantage - the lead was swiftly erased by the Black-and-Red following a brace from Jairo Arrieta and Conor Doyle in a 14-minute spell. Shipp, elated at his side's staunch first half outing, was flummoxed by the change in attitude after the halftime interval. 

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"I thought for the first half, we played so well," he said. "We went into halftime feeling good. We controlled the tempo and limited their chances. In the second half, we did a lot of things that were pretty uncharacteristic: guys out of position, turnovers that we normally don't have.

"All of that in the first 15 minutes of the second half kind of snowballed. Luckily for us, we play again tomorrow. It's a chance - if we have a good game tomorrow - to win two out of the three this week, which would be a decent week for us. It almost is better that we play so quickly because you don't have to mull over stupid things that you did for a whole week."

In the absence of Designated Player Shaun Maloney, the 23-year-old embraced the No. 10 role behind Quincy Amarikwa on Wednesday. The 2014 Rookie of the Year finalist's foray into his free-flowing post at RFK Stadium demonstrated the considerable latitude he was given - creating space for himself and his colleagues - while showing glimpses of his attacking instincts and ability to seek out the imbalances in the opposition.     

"It's what I played for the first 16 years I played soccer," Shipp said. "It's nice to be back there, and be able to float and go where the ball goes. That's probably my favorite thing to do, which is to get the ball and make plays.

"That [position] allows [me] to do it, but when I'm outside, it's a totally different mindset. It almost took me the first five to 10 minutes of the D.C. game to switch out of being an outside winger where you're going up and down, especially defensively, having to get back in transition. I'm looking forward to hopefully play that role in the future."

[MORE FIRE: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City]

As the Men in Red approach their second of three matches without the aid of the Scotland international, the collective expectation will be much higher as Adrian Heath's outfit makes its first-ever trip to Toyota Park in search of its third away win of the season. The Fire's defeat to D.C. - their first of the season when scoring the first goal - was another example of a lead squandered. But Shipp, who's jumped out to two goals and four assists through 12 matches in 2015, is bullish on the team's know-how to mend the situation.          

"On the road, especially when we've been in positions where we've gotten leads, we've come out and tried to protect those leads too much," Shipp added. "You saw against Montreal, we took the lead, put our foot on the gas and kept going.

"It's something to learn. When we get a lead, there's no point in sitting back and just playing the ball long. All of that pressure you're absorbing eventually is going to pay off for the other team. It's something we really have to consciously work at and something that's definitely been frustrating for us in certain games, but luckily for us, it's something we can fix. We know we have the potential to keep the ball and play and press other teams." 

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?


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.

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon


Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.