Fire

Logan Pause leading trophy-winning Fire PDL team

Logan Pause leading trophy-winning Fire PDL team

The Chicago Fire’s first team hasn’t had much success yet this season, but the club’s PDL squad is off to an impressive start to the summer.

The Fire PDL, an under-23 club comprised of Fire Academy products in high school and college as well as other college players from the region, recently won the Hank Steinbrecher Cup. The tournament was contested last weekend between four invited teams from different amateur leagues across the country.

The tournament was hosted by defending champion Chattanooga FC. After the Fire beat West Chester United 6-1 in the semifinal, the PDL squad knocked off the hosts 2-1 in extra time. Mark Segbers, a forward for Wisconsin, scored in regulation and current Fire Academy player Mauricio Pineda tallied the game-winning goal.

“It was a great experience for the players to be in a competition like that, to lift a trophy and to play in front of 3,500 fans in the last game,” Fire PDL coach Logan Pause said. “It’s part of the players’ development as players, learning how to win is an important piece.”

The PDL (Premier Development League) is all about developing players to become professionals. Obviously not all of them will make that jump, but Matt Pearson, the Fire’s head of scouting, and Pause picked a collection of some of the club’s best academy products and other college players.

Some could even become homegrown signings for the Fire. Current rookies and homegrown signings Joey Calistri and Drew Conner both played for the PDL team. Not every player on the team is eligible to sign with the Fire.

“It’s a combination of continuing to further develop our current player pool and then also getting an idea of what else is out there,” Pause said. “This is an important part of their development and allows us to see kids everyday over the course of two and a half months. It definitely helps, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s guaranteed to produce after this homegrown players.”

Two of the Fire Academy players, Pineda and Djordje Mihailovic, are high school age players who are going up against players that already have college experience. Both have also trained with the first team this season.

Pineda graduated from high school a semester early and is set to enroll at North Carolina in the fall. Mihailovic is only a junior in high school. Both have also earned youth national team call-ups from the U.S.

“I think that they have done well with the challenge,” Pause said of Pineda and Mihailovic. “I think it also shows the areas that they need to get pushed and get high level games and get games against bigger, stronger, faster players and faster tempo. I’ve been pleased with the response from those players and other young players that have come through and are participating with the PDL. But it doesn’t stop there. You need to continue to push and push these guys and hopefully continue to be a part of their development over the next course of these years.”

Pause, who is an assistant coach for the first team, is getting experience as well. This is the first time he has been the regular head coach of a team.

“Having my own thing so to speak has definitely been a first,” Pause said. “It’s been a great experience for me to see how to find my voice as a coach and to plan accordingly and run player meetings and organize things and all of those things that are really important for me to learn as I grow in my coaching ability.”

The Fire PDL team is currently 2-1 in league play. The final regular season match is scheduled for July 9 and then postseason play begins.

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.