Fire trying to stay positive and focused for final third of season

Fire trying to stay positive and focused for final third of season

As things stand now it looks like the Chicago Fire are headed for another year without playoffs.

The Fire are in last place in all of Major League Soccer with 19 points and after Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal defeat, a clear positive thing from this season and something to look forward to in the later part of the season is now gone.

The Fire’s playoff chances are slim, sitting eight points out of the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 matches to go. Despite the dreary outlook, midfielder Razvan Cocis said the mood in the team hasn’t dropped.

“We had a tough week,” Cocis said after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Orlando. “Not the greatest. We lost two games, we lost in the cup, which hurt us a lot. It’s still hurting us, but we talked about it and we just have to keep going. There’s just no other way. We talked about who wants to be in the locker room and who wants to keep going. Then he needs to stay, he needs to work more and more in the practice session to get better and be better as a team, as individuals.”

After Cocis said this during the postgame press conference, Veljko Paunovic jumped in with an unsolicited comment to emphasize the desired mentality for the rest of the season.

“We said there are only two ways here,” Paunovic said. “One is not acceptable, which is abandon. The second one is we continue working hard, we work together and we have to keep the spirit and the positiveness in our group, which is very important because this is all a process and this is all great opportunity for us all to become better professionals and for sure better people because these kind of challenges are very important and we have to appreciate this opportunity actually.”

[SHOP: Need a Fire home jersey? Get one here]

Even if the Fire fail to make the playoffs as expected, it would be notable if the team has a solid run down the stretch. Actually winning a road game, something the team hasn’t done in more than two years, would be a positive and should be one of the team's goals the rest of the season.

Players like Luis Solignac, who was very active in the final third after subbing on Sunday, and David Arshakyan, who is still awaiting his visa, can impress down the stretch to give the Fire’s roster a better outlook heading into 2017.

“We need real men to step up,” winger David Accam said. “Obviously we are down, but we can’t stay down. We need everyone to step up and I think today most of the guys stood up and they showed real character. So at the moment it’s good.”

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?


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.