Fire

Matt Polster adopts utility role in rookie season with Fire

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Matt Polster adopts utility role in rookie season with Fire

Matt Polster has had a banner year in his rookie MLS season.

On Friday, the 22-year-old – nearly seven months on from inking his first professional contract with the Chicago Fire – was duly rewarded with his first invitation to the United States Under-23 men’s national team setup.

“When I got the email, I was pretty excited,” he said. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was young. Finally to get the call-up to go represent the country is something huge, and I’m pretty excited.”

Added head coach Frank Yallop: “Matt should be in the squad, he’s a very good, young player and I’m very happy for him. He’s had a great season so far. Good things happen to guys that play well, and he’s certainly that. He’ll do well for the U.S. for sure.”

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Through 26 regular season games, Polster – who’ll train with Andreas Herzog’s group in Manchester, England from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8 and could feature in friendlies against England on Sept. 3 and Qatar on Sept. 8 – has appeared in 25 with the Men in Red, started 23 and missed just one altogether through yellow card accumulation.

Plying his trade predominantly as a holding midfielder, the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville product has become a surprise package among Yallop's offseason acquisitions. Polster has prided his play on protecting the back four with his physicality, switching the point of attack with his vision and distributing and maintaining possession with his poise on the ball, facets that justifiably garnered deserved praise at the player combine and led to his seventh selection in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft in January.

The shift from the collegiate to professional level has certainly had its share of teaching moments arise since.

After cementing his place in the center of the midfield in 14 consecutive matches between early March and mid-June, Polster retreated to a center back role – a position he occupied for two years at SIUE – in a pair of U.S. Open Cup fixtures. The Milwaukee, Wis. native was then selected at right back in a three-match span in July, and most recently in the Fire’s last three consecutive games.

[RELATED: Fire, Orlando City settle for draw in weather-delayed match]

“I want to play center mid, that’s my favorite position,” he said. “Right now, for me, just getting on the field, getting minutes and working as hard as I can in any spot they need me is what I’m going to do.”

Growing pains? Sure. But for Polster, who’s posted six starts at right back, the transition is all part of his coming-of-age.

“In the Colorado game, we wanted to be high and wide as wide-backs," he added. "Against New York, I didn’t do that as much; I let Pat [Nyarko] do his thing. The up-and-down I didn’t do as much in the New York game because I thought that benefitted us a little more.

“Right back isn’t ideal, but I’ll work really hard, do the simple things and be as simple as possible in that position.” 

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

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@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.

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

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USA TODAY

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.