Michael de Leeuw scores in Fire's preseason win against Philadelphia

Michael de Leeuw scores in Fire's preseason win against Philadelphia

The preseason marched on with a second straight win for the Chicago Fire on Thursday afternoon.

The Fire beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Michael de Leeuw scored the game's only goal on a header in the 56th minute.

The match represented the first time the Fire played an MLS opponent this preseason, after beating Florida Gulf Coast University in the first preseason match. It also was the first time the anticipated midfield pairing of Juninho and Dax McCarty and the forward pairing of de Leeuw and Nemanja Nikolic played together. McCarty didn't play in the preseason opener because he was returning from national team camp while de Leeuw and Nikolic played in different halves at FGCU.

This time around the starting group played for over an hour and Nikolie and de Leeuw combined for the goal in the second half. Nikolic crossed from the right towards de Leeuw, who headed it on target. Union goalkeeper John McCarthy made the initial save, but de Leeuw was able to head in the rebound in the 56th minute.

Nikolic was replaced by Luis Solignac in the 64th minute and de Leeuw exited about 10 minutes later. De Leeuw mostly played underneath Nikolic, who was trying to play on the offside line. Nikolic put the ball in the net in the first half after de Leeuw took advantage of a Philadelphia turnover, but Nikolic was offside on de Leeuw's feed.

Another near goal came on a play started by rookie Daniel Johnson. Johnson cut into the edge of the box from the left side and set up Solignac, whose shot hit the post. David Arshakyan's rebound attempt went right to McCarthy.

As for the midfield pairing, McCarty was typically deeper than Juninho and was used as more of a point man to start attacks and maintain possession. Both players were subbed off in the 73rd minute. They were flanked by David Accam and Arturo Alvarez on the wings in a 4-4-2 formation.

Defensively, it's the second straight shutout of the preseason for the Fire. Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira got the starts at center back while Patrick Doody played left back and Michael Harrington started at right back. Kappelhof played the longest of any Fire player, getting subbed off in the 80th minute. He played about 15 minutes at right back after Jonathan Campbell replaced Harrington in the second half.

Jorge Bava started for the second straight match in goal. Matt Lampson played the final half hour.

One player who did not take the field was recently signed homegrown player Djordje Mihailovic. Mihailovic is currently playing with the U.S. U-19 team. He scored in a friendly today against North American Soccer League team Miami FC. On Monday, Mihailovic played all 90 minutes in a 2-1 win against El Salvador's U-20.

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.