Kennedy Igboananike goal leads Fire to first win of season


Kennedy Igboananike goal leads Fire to first win of season

The weather outside was frightful, but the Chicago Fire finally have a win in 2016.

The Fire beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 on Saturday at Toyota Park. It was the Fire's first win of the season.

Kennedy Igboananike scored the match's only goal in the 51st minute, just a few minutes after Philadelphia's Warren Creavalle was sent off for a harsh tackle from behind on Razvan Cocis.

With strong wind, occasional snow and cold temperatures, some fans from Section 8 started singing "Let It Snow" with some help from a trumpeter. The conditions definitely impacted the fans in the stands, but the field remained in decent shape when the snow wasn't swirling over the field.

The win gave the Fire (1-1-2, 5 points) the first win under first-year coach Veljko Paunovic.

“It means a lot for me and for this locker room, who works very hard so far," Paunovic said. "I think winning this game gave us more confidence now and believe we are on a good path, which we always knew that we were."

The game could have gone very differently with the Union (2-2, 6 points) hitting the goal frame three times in the match. Union forward C.J. Sapong headed off the crossbar in the 29th minute and drilled a shot off the post in the 41st minute.

Meanwhile, the Fire were unable to put a shot on goal in the first half.

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Early in the second half a long shot from Ilsinho went through goalkeeper Matt Lampson's hands and ricocheted off the bar. A minute later Creavalle was sent off with a red card and the match changed almost immediately. Creavalle had picked up a yellow card in the first half.

“The sending off obviously changes the game," Union coach Jim Curtin said. “We talked about to Warren about being careful and not leaving his feet so a little bit silly in the area of the field. I think he should just let him turn there and we live to fight another day.”

It took less than five minutes for the Fire to turn the man-advantage into a lead. Michael Harrington slotted a pass in the box to Igboananike, who was able to quickly turn and slide a low shot just inside the far post.

“That’s a really, really good finish to turn and quickly shoot it like that," Fire midfielder Michael Stephens said. "It was a good team goal and it came off a big sequence of passing, which is something we worked on this week.”

[MORE: Joao Meira left Portugal for something different in Chicago]

The Fire held on for a second straight shutout at home while returning to a four-man back line. Harrington returned from his red card suspension to take Brandon Vincent's spot at left back. Rodrigo Ramos earned his second straight start at right back and Jonathan Campbell paired with Johan Kappelhof at centerback. Campbell's start is a sign that he may have passed up Joao Meira, who played every minute of the Fire's first three matches, on the depth chart in Paunovic's mind.

“I think it’s gotten better every week," Kappelhof said. "We train hard and we communicate good. It’s getting better. We are improving. We are not there yet, but we are working hard.”

Next up for the Fire is an April 10 match at New York City FC, who beat the Fire 4-3 in the season opener at Toyota Park.

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.