Notes from the rewatch: Why couldn't the Fire break down Orlando?

Notes from the rewatch: Why couldn't the Fire break down Orlando?

Sunday's goalless draw between the Chicago Fire and Orlando City was a weird one.

The Fire played with a man advantage for more than an hour and were up two men for nearly a half hour. So why couldn't the Fire get the goal needed to get the victory?

Orlando's resolute defending and organization was obviously essential to that, but what could the Fire have done differently?

Here are some notes on the Fire playing against a deep defensive line and how the team looked for the 25 minutes of even strength play.

The game before the red cards

From an outside perspective, the downside to Orlando receiving two red cards in the match was that it took away the chance to evaluate the Fire against a good team. The Fire have played good teams this year, but the team's current unbeaten run implies the Fire have improved.

Orlando is in the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference and has a strong home record. If the Fire were able to get a result against Orlando when it had 11 men, that would have been a significant milestone.

Instead, there was only 25 minutes of solid evaluation. The Fire did have a majority of the possession in the first 25 minutes and did create a pair of good chances. David Accam got free after a defender fell and had a hard shot saved in the 14th minute. In the 20th minute, Accam and Nikolic combined in the box, but Nikolic could only get a soft shot on target.

Orlando was letting the Fire have possession, but was also pressing high up the field and did create a few dangerous turnovers. Over 90 minutes it would have been interesting to see the dynamic play out of the Fire controlling the ball, but Orlando pressing to create chances off turnovers in the Fire's half.

After the first red card

After Rafael Ramos was sent off, Orlando obviously stopped the high-press. The Lions still had moments of extended possession, but there weren't many.

For the most part, Orlando was looking to launch long balls to Cyle Larin and Carlos Rivas. Larin got a shot off of one of them, but that was Orlando's only shot the rest of the match.

After the second red card

Once Antonio Nocerino was sent off, it was all-out defense for Orlando. A tired Rivas got subbed off for Kaka just before the red card and Larin was subbed off a few minutes after it.

The long ball threat was gone and the Fire now had to break down eight defenders staying tight to the box. This wasn't a good matchup for what the Fire like to do in the attack.

While David Accam likes to dribble at defenders in 1v1 situations, his speed was mostly negated by the tight space. Nikolic's desire to stretch a defense's offside line and his movement and runs in the box also don't apply against a team sitting that deep.

The Fire's lack of aerial threats was also a problem. David Arshakyan replaced Accam in the 76th minute to provide that size in the box.

On top of that, the Fire were without Juninho, whose ability to take shots from distance could have come in handy when the Fire needed someone to try something other than a cross into the box.

Arturo Alvarez subbed on as someone who can shoot from distance and create his own shot. He had a few shots, but none were on target.

Matt Polster's sliding shot that went off the bottom of the crossbar in added time was the only shot taken from inside the box that came from a decent angle and wasn't blocked.

After the second red, the Fire totaled 19 balls sent into the box, either a cross, a corner or a low centering ball. That was what Orlando gave the Fire and it showed why. None of those low percentage chances led to goals or even shots on target.

Bastian Schweinsteiger's role without Dax McCarty

With McCarty away with the national team, Schweinsteiger filled in as the point man to build possession for the Fire. Typically, McCarty drops between the two centerbacks and will make the first or one of the first passes as the Fire build out of the back.

Schweinsteiger took that role on Sunday. He dropped deeper, but wasn't pressed defensively because of the red cards. This meant some of his passes were further from goal.

Perhaps having Schweinsteiger try to make the assisting pass instead of setting up players to make assisting passes would have helped break down Orlando. Either way, look for Schweinsteiger to take a similar role Saturday against Atlanta with McCarty still gone.

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.