Fire

Fire: Polster, Yallop point up midfield depth ahead of clash vs. D.C.

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Fire: Polster, Yallop point up midfield depth ahead of clash vs. D.C.

Since signing on as Head Coach and Director of Soccer for the Chicago Fire on October 31, 2013, Frank Yallop's task of welding together a harmonious side - from back to front - has proved onerous. Between the incongruous collection of players left over from Frank Klopas' tenure and futile attempts to rake in enriching signings of his own in his first season, the end of 2014 precipitated Yallop's recourse to clean house, declining 2015 contract options on 11 players. 

Glowing from their 3-0 victory over the Montreal Impact - fueled by a lights-out performance from Kennedy Igboananike and the bright midfield pairing of Matt Polster and Razvan Cocis - the Men in Red are beginning to feel the effects of the booming depth in the center of the park, a refreshing constituent of Yallop's reconditioned team.

“It’s huge, especially since we have this stretch of game after game," Polster said. "If somebody does go down for an injury, I think we have the players to come in and perform at the same level.

“Honestly, I think anybody who comes into the midfield will perform as best as they can. We have the players to do it: like [Matt] Watson, [Michael] Stephens and Raz [Cocis], and [Chris] Ritter as well. We have a lot of midfielders and I think each one of them can do the job that’s needed.” 

[SHOP: Get your Fire gear right here]

The Fire (4-5-2, 14 points) will have to rely on that depth as they face a quick turnaround Wednesday night for their first midweek fixture of the season against conference rival D.C. United (7-3-4, 25 points) at 6 p.m. CT on CSN+. 

One player the second-year head coach has regularly heaped praise on is Polster, a Southern Illinois-Edwardsville standout and the Fire's seventh overall selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.

Having grown accustomed to the playing style in Chicago and starting in all but one match this season, the soon-to-be 22-year-old has become the surprise package for the Men in Red and a bulwark in Yallop's midfield, which will be put to the test in the first of six matches in the month of June.

“Credit to him, he’s really settled in, listened to meself and the coaching staff, and we give him every confidence to be a very good player," Yallop added. "Whoever he plays with or whoever he’s around, it doesn’t really matter for Matt, he’s just doing that job very, very well. He’s settled in and his confidence is growing. I think he’s got a chance to go on all the way. He’s a really good kid, and I want him to do well."

[RELATED: Gameday on CSN+: Fire visit the nation's capital]

Following a series of matches that saw Ben Olsen's side scramble for points, the Eastern Conference leaders will play their sixth match in less than three weeks, while the Men in Red seek their first away win of the season and look to keep their unbeaten record against conference opponents alive in their first visit to RFK Stadium since last October.

A fixture with the club since 1997, Olsen has forged an effective playing style since superseding Curt Onalfo in 2010, imparting the tireless work ethic that served him well in his playing days to his current batch of talent. Yallop - chary of the attacking prowess of a side that will be without former Fire forward and D.C.'s leading scorer Chris Rolfe due to suspension - will stick to the blueprint that has helped his side to a three-match unbeaten run.

"They're a good side," Yallop said. "I know Benny [Olsen] well, he's a good coach. They're one of those gritty teams that just seem to - even if they're not playing particularly well - they get results. That's always a sign of a good team.

"It's going to be tough, but we've done okay this year against everybody. We're not afraid to go in there and play our game. Hopefully it's enough to get something out of the match."

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.