Matt Polster looks to build on strong rookie season


Matt Polster looks to build on strong rookie season

Representing your country is one of the highest honors in sports.

Matt Polster had that chance while training with the U.S. National Team during the annual January camp. Now the Fire’s second-year midfielder is hoping to improve upon his positive debut season.

Polster didn’t get to play during the two friendlies the U.S. played to conclude the training camp, but he still figures to be a part of the U-23 squad that hopes to qualify for the Olympics via a two-leg playoff against Colombia in March.

“It was a great experience being with all those players,” Polster said. “I think the caliber of coaches made the experience very good obviously. I was able to learn a lot. I picked up some things from veteran players like Michael Bradley and how they prepare themselves before training and games.

“I picked up some things on how they prepared, how they work during training and how mentally engaged they were through everything.”

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Polster initially received an email saying he was being considered for the camp. He later got the call from manager Jurgen Klinsmann to make it official that he would be a part of the group. Polster said he immediately called his parents and some friends to share the news.

Despite not playing in a match, training with a select group of players was something that Polster, who had not represented the U.S. at any other youth level, was honored by.

“That’s the highest thing you can do is play for your national team so to get that opportunity to play for the national team and put the shirt on and represent the country I think is a huge step for my career,” Polster said. “I think I did well in camp, which is a little bit of a confidence booster as well. I think each part of camp was slowly building confidence, getting a rhythm and building up for Chicago.”

Polster was joined by Fire teammates Sean Johnson and Brandon Vincent at the training camp. The trio joined the Fire midway through the club’s stay in Tampa for the preseason.

Upon arriving in Tampa, Polster noticed changes under first-year coach Veljko Paunovic.

“He’s very hands on,” Polster said of Paunovic. “He’s always engaged. He likes to stop sessions, let us know what we’re doing wrong, what we can do better or even sometimes stop and say that was good. I think he’s tactically very smart. I think we’re going to have an idea of how we want to go forward, how we want to defend, how we want to build out of the back.”

[MORE: Paunovic explains decision to trade Harry Shipp]

Individually, Polster admitted he has some things to sharpen up. On the team side, Polster said the returning Fire players have something to prove after a disappointing season last year.

Polster’s desire to improve is something that stood out to Paunovic.

“He is a really young guy full of potential, full of energy, which we have to channel,” Paunovic said. “We have to channel his passion, his will to give his best in every session, in every game, which is very, very important. At the same time we have to put that under control and that control has to come from him. That’s what we are working on from him. We really think he has potential and a big value in our club and our league.”

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.