Fire

Homecoming 'weird' for Harry Shipp

Homecoming 'weird' for Harry Shipp

Entering Saturday's match between the Chicago Fire and the Montreal Impact, much of the talk was about Harry Shipp's return to Toyota Park.

The Lake Forest native's trade from Bridgeview to Quebec in February was the most headline-grabbing move of the Fire's offseason, but by the time Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti scored second half goals to turn a halftime deficit into a road victory, Shipp was no longer the story of the game.

That's how things are going for Shipp in Montreal. He's not the focus of the Impact's attack, like many wanted him to be with the Fire, but he has still started all six matches and is a part of an Eastern Conference-leading team.

"Here we have so many talented guys and I just get to be a good role player and help the team win and that's what I've been doing the last six games and luckily it's worked out for us," Shipp said after Saturday's 2-1 Montreal victory.

Shipp had a couple chances to make even more headlines with a goal in his return, but he hit a sizzling shot just over the crossbar midway through the first half and was denied from close range by Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson in the second half. Shipp's first half shot sailed towards Section 8, the Fire's supporters' group, which served as a symbolic hello from Harry to his former fans.

After the match ended Shipp walked behind the south goal at Toyota Park and talked to some friends. This had been part of his routine for the past two years, but during those years he was doing it as a Fire player. Now he was the visitor.

"Being back the first time I always think it's going to be weird," Shipp said. "Once the game started I wasn't necessarily thinking about that. I think being here and walking out it was a little bit surreal I guess is the right word. For me once the game starts you're just playing soccer and you're doing your best to get three points for Montreal.

"It's nice to have friends, family, people I've known for forever here back, people that I just met since I started playing professionally here or just fans I would see after every home game. To kind of have their support after the game was nice and you don't get a lot of that with fans in Montreal in terms of me recognizing them because it's all so new to me. It's kind of nice to be back and have some familiar faces."

Another thing was probably a bit different for Shipp: the result. The Fire had dropped a lot of games late in Shipp's two years with the club. Now Shipp was on the winning end of a late goal thanks for Piatti's goal, which came in added time.

"Halftime it wasn't a great feeling being down to your former team, but to come back and get the win 2-1, it was a big win for us," Shipp said.

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.