Fire

Fire succumb to slow start, fall to Crew SC

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Fire succumb to slow start, fall to Crew SC

Behind a stalwart performance from Sean Johnson in goal, the Chicago Fire slipped to their 10th defeat of the season Wednesday night, falling to Columbus Crew SC, 1-0, in front of an announced crowd of 14,092 at Toyota Park.

A 41st-minute goal from Kei Kamara was all that was needed, as head coach Frank Yallop's unit, meanwhile, remained at the foot of the standings and had little to draw on despite entering the match following an encouraging win over Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders FC just four days prior.

"Probably the worst we’ve played, the first half," Yallop said after the match. "Not happy from the endeavor and the fight of the team, which I felt we had in the last five games but tonight it wasn’t, especially in the first half. The second half we had a bit of a go. We were totally out-played tonight.”

After plying his trade in the center of the midfield and forging a partnership with Razvan Cocis of late, rookie Matt Polster retreated to center back in place of Adaílton, who'd been suspended because of yellow card accumulation. Thus, Chris Ritter earned a starting place in Yallop's midfield. With just over an hour under his belt over the weekend, Patrick Nyarko was restored to the bench to allow Michael Stephens to acquire his first MLS start since the Fire's 3-1 defeat to D.C. United on June 3.

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Crew SC applied significant pressure to the Fire defense early, spending the majority of the opening 45 minutes in the Men in Red's defensive third. The Fire continued to absorb pressure as the half wore on, relying far too much on Johnson to keep the visitors out.

Federico Higuaín and Kamara combined twice in the opening 10 minutes, a trend that continued throughout the evening, as the Sierra Leone international got in behind the Fire back line on multiple occasions and forced numerous saves from an alert Johnson.

Kamara's diligent work ethic eventually produced the breakthrough with four minutes remaining in the first half, getting on the end of an Ethan Finlay cross to head past a helpless Johnson to notch his third goal in two games against the Fire, and league-leading 13th on the year, while Finlay notched his 11th assist of 2015 on the play.

[RELATED: Fire set for back-to-back matches against Columbus]

Following the halftime interval, Yallop brought on Jason Johnson, David Accam and Patrick Nyarko to inflict some damage on Crew SC. A Harry Shipp free kick in the 76th minute and Accam's right-footed strike nine minutes from time were the lone chances for the Fire in the second half before Ted Unkel's full-time whistle left the Men in Red frustrated with yet another home defeat.

The two sides assemble again in four days, as the Fire travel to the Arch City in the third and final meeting of the season on Sunday.

"Every game’s different," Yallop added. "If we score early then the game can change and be different. They’ve come in here and played quite well away from home. We’ve played well away from home to at least get a couple of wins, but it wasn’t to be. Talk is cheap. Whether we’re depleted or not we got to find a way to do it.”   

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Matt Polster, Patrick Doody; Michael Stephens (Patrick Nyarko, 58'), Chris Ritter (David Accam, 72'), Razvan Cocis, Harry Shipp; Mike Magee (C), Kennedy Igboananike (Jason Johnson, 58').

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.