Fire try to play spoiler against Crew


Fire try to play spoiler against Crew

It’s been nearly four weeks since the Chicago Fire played a home game. Now the Fire will finish the home schedule with two matches at Toyota Park in the next four days.

The first of the final two home games of 2016 will be Thursday against the Columbus Crew. The match will be televised on CSN Chicago with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. Kickoff is set for just after 7:30 p.m.

These two teams played on Oct. 1 before taking a break for international games. The Crew won 3-0 in Ohio.

“What I expect is a reaction, a reaction from the last game,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “I think the last game, losing against one of our rivals that are very, very important for our supporters, the performance wasn’t good, especially in the second half.”

This is the fourth meeting between the two teams this season. The first was a scoreless draw on March 19 at Toyota Park. The Fire (6-16-9, 27 points) knocked the Crew (8-12-11, 35 points) out of the U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 win also at Toyota Park on June 28.

The familiarity plus the most recent meeting being the last game for both teams means there shouldn’t be many surprises at this point.

“We’re pretty much expecting what they threw at us in that last game,” Fire defender Jonathan Campbell said. “It worked well for them. Obviously you don’t want to do the exact same thing, you’ll maybe change a few things, probably see a few different people, but I imagine the tactics would be about the same. I wouldn’t expect too much of a change from them.”

[MORE FIRE: Young midfielder Collin Fernandez in search of playing time]

The Fire have no names on the injury report, but could be without David Accam. The Ghanaian is returning from national team duty. He came off the bench and played the second half in a 1-1 draw at South Africa in a friendly. Traveling over an ocean the day before a game to return means Accam will likely be limited, if at all available, for Thursday against the Crew.

Harrison Afful, Columbus’ right back and Accam’s teammate with Ghana, scored the opening goal against the Fire on Oct. 1 and could also miss out.

Columbus is still alive in the playoff race, although anything other than a win at Toyota Park would end those chances. In addition to being able to eliminate their rival, the Fire are pushing to avoid becoming the first team to finish last place in MLS in back-to-back seasons. Paunovic said he expects his team to play with pride in an effort to finish the season “on a positive side.”

“I know it’s tough, we’re not going to make the playoffs, but I think we’re just trying to build something for next year,” Campbell said. “You never know who’s going to return, but if you have a core group of guys returning we can build something in these last three games. When we come back for next season that’s what we’re looking to build upon.”

Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew


When: 7:30 p.m. (coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

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.