Fire

Fire try to 'escape from the bottom' in season finale at Toronto

Fire try to 'escape from the bottom' in season finale at Toronto

The 2016 Chicago Fire season will end Sunday and it has been over in terms of chasing a playoff spot for a few weeks, but coach Veljko Paunovic still believes the team has something to play for beyond trying to be a spoiler.

Paunovic wants to see his team avoid finishing last in the league for a second straight year. If the Fire can win at Toronto FC on Sunday, which will be televised on CSN with coverage beginning at 3 p.m., there is a chance the Fire can move ahead of Houston in the standings. The Fire (7-16-10, 31 points) are two points behind Houston, which plays at Colorado as part of the league’s simultaneous kickoffs to close the regular season.

“I think we owe to our job, to our fans, to our club, to everyone in the league professionality and we have to play the game the best we can,” Paunovic said earlier this week. “That’s very important for me. On the other end there is another motivation which motivates me even more. We have the opportunity if we win the game to win that second game in a row, second game on the road this year, but at the same time… we have the opportunity to escape from the bottom in the overall standings.”

Of course, winning on the road against a playoff team won’t be easy. The Fire are 1-13-2 on the road this year and Toronto (13-9-11, 50 points) is playing to get a first round bye in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Toronto just got reigning league MVP Sebastian Giovinco back from injury. Giovinco played all 90 minutes and had an assist in the 2-2 draw at Montreal last week after missing the previous five games. Giovinco did not play when TFC won 2-1 at Toyota Park on Sept. 10.

“We have to be on top of our performance to play against a team like Toronto and players like Giovinco and other guys,” Paunovic said. “I think they have a very good team.”

In addition to Toronto’s win in Bridgeview, TFC also beat the Fire 1-0 on July 9 in Canada.

“We know what we can expect from them,” Paunovic said. “We know how euphoric they’re going to be, the people, the stands, the crowd and everything.”

The Fire will be without forward Luis Solignac, who will be serving a suspension after being red carded in last week’s win against New England. David Arshakyan, who joined the Fire in August, could see more minutes or get a start in Solignac’s absence. Defender Johan Kappelhof is the only listed injury. Kappelhof is listed as questionable with a hip injury.

The game could also mark the last appearance in a Fire jersey for some of the players. After another disappointing season, more turnover in the roster should be expected. How much change there will be remains to be seen, but in all likelihood at least a couple of Sunday’s starters won’t be back.

Chicago Fire at Toronto FC

When: 3 p.m. Sunday

TV: CSN

Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario

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?

portillos.jpg
@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.