Fire: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City


Fire: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City

With just over a third of the 2015 MLS season gone, all four of the Chicago Fire’s victories have come against Eastern Conference opponents. Having played one more game, each of Orlando City SC’s three wins have come against Western Conference opponents. 
Despite jumping out to a 1-0 first half lead, the Men in Red crumbled in a disappointing second half display in the 3-1 midweek defeat to D.C. United and saw their three-match unbeaten run come to an end. The Lions, meanwhile, had to rely on late heroics from Pedro Ribeiro to help salvage a 2-2 draw against Columbus Crew SC last weekend, which helped them extend their unbeaten streak to three games.
Nestled in seventh and eighth position in the table, respectively, and on relatively equal terms with 14 points apiece, the two sides fittingly converge for their first-ever league encounter on Saturday (7:30 p.m. on CSN) at Toyota Park.
[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey right here!]
An earnest Frank Yallop, who described the 3-0 drubbing of the Montreal Impact as a game his side “had to win," alluded to his comments made earlier in the week, imploring his side to produce a carbon copy performance against Orlando while reiterating the importance of winning at Toyota Park.
"Any time you're at home, you want to win," Yallop said after training on Friday. "We're the same as every other team in this league - we have to win home games. I think we've played well enough to maybe win a couple more, but in the end, we've looked pretty good at home. We're pretty dynamic, especially lately, and [we've] push teams to their limits."
Saturday's clash against Adrian Heath's outfit marks the Fire's fifth in a string of seven consecutive matches against conference adversaries. The visitors will be without midfielder Brek Shea, among others, who was summoned by Jurgen Klinsmann to compete in upcoming international friendlies for the United States. The Fire will also be without the services of Designated Player Shaun Maloney, who won't return from international duty with his native Scotland until after the Men in Red's away fixture at the New England Revolution on June 13.
Still, Yallop was pleased with Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp's cameo in the No. 10 role underneath forward Quincy Amarikwa, who ran onto an exquisite through ball supplied by the Lake Forest native to eventually set up David Accam for the Fire's opener at RFK Stadium. It was another sign of the 23-year-old's awareness in the final third and guileful movement that continues to ask questions of the Men in Red's opposition.
"Harry plays infield anyway, he's never wide," Yallop said. "So whether he starts from a wide position, he slides and plays his football inside. Harry's done fine."
[MORE: Igboananike named to Team of the Week; Shipp up for Goal of the Week]
If the Fire have any hope of rekindling the conviction harvested from two separate unbeaten streaks this season, Yallop knows the drop-off in pressure that resulted in the three-goal swing against D.C. must be rectified against Orlando.
"The plan was to keep doing what we were doing [in the first half]," he said. "We didn't have good movement off the ball [in the second half] and made poor decisions on the ball. It cost us. We had a crazy 20 minutes where they scored three goals.
"That's football. They're a good side, and we couldn't handle what they were doing. It's about us now. We've got to make sure we let that one go and learn from it. All around, it's never easy. It's a growing process, but we've done okay."
Leading the firing line for the Lions will be 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Kaká. The Brazilian midfielder leads the team with six goals and two assists, and will be accompanied by Eric Avila and Danny Mwanga either side of him, along with 2015 MLS SuperDraft first pick and Canadian international Cyle Larin. The 19-year-old out-and-out striker has notched four goals in eight starts and complements an attacking force that is hitting its stride.
"Attacking wise, they're a good side and a well-balanced team," Yallop said. "But we've got some good attacking players, too."
Hear what else Yallop had to say after training Friday in the video above ahead of the match vs. Orlando.  

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.