Fire

Preview: Dax McCarty faces old team with Fire on CSN

Preview: Dax McCarty faces old team with Fire on CSN

An obvious storyline for Saturday's Chicago Fire match at the New York Red Bulls is the return of former Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty to his previous home, but does his familiarity with the opposition give the Fire a boost?

McCarty and the Fire take on the Red Bulls on Saturday at Red Bull Arena. CSN has the live coverage, beginning at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

In a league where most teams don't have a distinct or discernible style the Red Bulls have been identifiable as a team that typically wins the possession battle and punishes mistakes with a high-press since former Fire player Jesse Marsch took over as coach in 2015.

"I was a part of that system for the last two years and obviously I guess you can describe it as when Jesse came in and started coaching the system changed and became very distinct," McCarty said.

McCarty played with the Red Bulls for five and a half seasons and was the captain under Marsch. His familiarity with the players and the system could help the Fire, although he insisted it's nothing most teams can't see on film anyway.

"Obviously I know a couple little inside details that they try to do that most teams can see on video," McCarty said. "There's not going to be any real secrets. I think that they're very good at what they do and they're very good at the way that they play and not many teams are capable of playing with them. We're going to have to do a few things tactically to make sure that we're ready and prepared for everything that they throw at you because they have a very good style of play that's led them to be one of the best teams in the league over the past couple years.

"I'll be able to tell the guys a little bit about each guy that they're playing against, maybe one-on-one battles."

[RELATED: Dax McCarty ready to 'soak in the moment' in return to Red Bull Arena]

The Fire (3-2-2, 11 points) have struggled on the road so far this season with two losses, both by multiple goals, and a draw. The Red Bulls (4-3-1, 13 points) are 3-0-1 at home and had the most home wins in the league (13) last season. Last season, the Fire lost 1-0 at Red Bull Arena and played to a 2-2 draw against the Red Bulls at Toyota Park.

Coach Veljko Paunovic said McCarty's knowledge of the opponent will supplement what he and the staff learned from last year's matches.

"Of course it helps, but we also played against the Red Bulls so many times and saw them play against other teams," Paunovic said. "It's a very good and very well known opponent that we have in front. We believe we know their strengths. It's always helpful that you can have a player who knows their system like Dax and played in that system and performed very well."

The Fire don't yet have a clear style under Paunovic, especially with so many new key figures in this year's team. The three-man central midfield of Bastian Schweinsteiger, McCarty and Juninho is still figuring things out and even Schweinsteiger recently said he is playing at 70 percent fitness.

Paunovic does believe he has seen the team progress in that area though.

"I think we can notice that the team is more comfortable with the ball, more confident and creates more opportunities," he said. "We still have to do a better job converting these opportunities, especially on the road. I think on the road we have to manage better the games, especially to not concede early goals."

The Fire have allowed a goal in the first half hour of all three road games this season. McCarty is hoping to see the Fire’s first road win come at his former home stadium.

"We haven't been very good on the road this year," McCarty said. "There's nothing like going into a really good team's home and getting your first win of the year. That's kind of the way I'm trying to look at it and the way that I'm trying to talk to the guys about it. If we're going to be successful this year we can't just be good at home. We have to win on the road, too. What a better environment, what a better game to get that first win and try to be good and make sure that we leave Red Bull Arena with something."

Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls

Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

TV: CSN

When: Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (3-2-2, 11 points), Red Bulls (4-3-1, 13 points)

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.