Fire

Fire 'roll with the punches,' earn clean sheet against Dallas

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Fire 'roll with the punches,' earn clean sheet against Dallas

The Fire extended their winning streak against FC Dallas to four consecutive games Sunday night, topping Óscar Pareja's side, 2-0, in front of 14,209 at Toyota Park.

David Accam's sixth goal in his 13th regular season appearance for the Men in Red and Shaun Maloney's 85th minute penalty kick proved to be the difference on the night, as Frank Yallop's men claimed their first league victory since a 1-0 triumph over then-Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC, leaving Dallas winless against the Fire since October 13, 2011.

"Fantastic win for us," Yallop told reporters after the match. "To get a clean sheet in the end was important, under a bit of pressure at the end. I thought we did enough to win the game. We were dangerous on the break and could've scored more.

"We rolled with the punches tonight against a good team that is going to attack us and open us up, but I thought we could've scored five goals on the break. ... It proved tonight that we're not a bad side against a very, very good team in Dallas. We deserved to win."

Following last week’s 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, the Fire showed three changes. Adaílton, whose blunder resulted in the Revolution’s second and game-tying goal, made way for Jeff Larentowicz to reclaim a starting position at center back alongside Eric Gehrig. After missing the last three matches to regain fitness, Lovel Palmer made his return to the side to replace Matt Watson, meaning Matt Polster was restored to the center of the midfield to partner with Razvan Cocis. Jason Johnson rounded out the alterations, standing in for Kennedy Igboananike up top.

[RELATED: Fire square off against high-flying FC Dallas]

The hosts got off to a dream start, seeing Jason Johnson and Accam combine in the fourth minute to give Yallop's outfit a fourth-minute lead. Johnson released the Ghanaian into space, who beat defender Matt Hedges to the ball and slotted a low shot through the legs of Dallas 'keeper Dan Kennedy and into the back of the net for a team-leading sixth strike of the campaign. 

Despite gaining early momentum, the tide appeared to have shifted as the visitors reclaimed a majority of possession. In the 27th minute, Dallas nearly caught the Men in Red sleeping. A free-kick delivery fell to Victor Ulloa, who hooked his shot from the top of the 18 narrowly wide of Sean Johnson's right post, the most worrying of a string of half chances that Yallop's group was able to safely fend off going into the halftime interval. 

Emerging from the opening 45 with just 38 percent of possession, the Fire continued to be pinned back by Dallas, but saw the better chances fall their way. Three minutes either side of the hour mark, it was the presence of Johnson, the nifty footwork from Maloney and the unrelenting play of Accam that unnerved the visitors.

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Accam wrestled the ball off a Dallas defender in the box and found himself with only Kennedy to beat, but fired a tame effort into the palms of the Dallas netminder. Maloney dribbled a ball toward the endline six minutes later, cutting back for Johnson, who blasted an effort off Kennedy's chest.

In the 77th minute, Cocis slammed a one-time shot from distance that forced another save from Kennedy, before the Fire were reduced to 10 men following a studs-up challenge from second-half substitute Matt Watson on Rolando Escobar at midfield.

The shorthanded Men in Red displayed a different level of fight from games past, however, getting the most out of substitute Kennedy Igboananike, who, five minutes from time, was brought down in the penalty area by Kellyn Acosta. The Nigerian's tenacious work rate allowed Maloney to step up to convert his second spot kick in as many matches to help the Fire top a Western Conference foe for the second time in three weeks, and climb out of last place in the Eastern Conference.

"The back four and four midfielders in front of them were excellent," Yallop added. "We worked a lot on shape, getting in the right spots and staying with runners, especially against a team like Dallas who have tons of pace and ability. ... We defended very well tonight as a group."

Next up is a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers on Aug 12. The match is slated for a 10 p.m. CT kickoff from Providence Park. 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer (Matt Watson, 68'), Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster, Shaun Maloney; David Accam (Patrick Nyarko, 88'); Jason Johnson (Kennedy Igboananike, 66'). 

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.