Sean Johnson back in goal for now for the Fire

Sean Johnson back in goal for now for the Fire

Sean Johnson has been the man between the posts for the Chicago Fire since 2010.

The goalkeeper impressed as a rookie that year in 13 starts and has started a majority of the Fire's matches each year since, even earning five caps with the U.S. Men's National Team.

When he was forced to watch the Fire's first nine matches of this season on the bench, it was something different for the Georgia native. After the long wait, Johnson was able to win the job back for the past two matches.

He didn't even make a save in the 1-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls. The only shot on goal by the Red Bulls was an unsavable shot by Mike Grella.

His shutout in Saturday's 1-0 win against Houston forced him to make his first saves of the season. Johnson finished with three saves, including tipping a Mauro Manotas shot over the bar late in the second half to preserve the lead.

“The result tonight was massive," Johnson said. "It comes in a tough time for us. We’ve been through a lot and we’ve stuck together through the entire thing."

Each time Johnson made a save or came off his line to claim a loose ball, he earned an extra cheer from the crowd. The fans showed support for the club's longest tenured player.

Coach Veljko Paunovic has frequently been asked questions about why Matt Lampson was given the nod ahead of Johnson and would always say that all positions remained open for competition. When asked Saturday if Johnson has earned the starting job for the forseeable future, Paunovic again left it open.

“He is doing very good," Paunovic said of Johnson. "He is helping the team and, like we did so far, everyone who is doing that and we believe can help the team to win and to perform, we will do that and play.”

Johnson said the transition to playing in front of a back line that he had never played with in a game before Wednesday was easy.

"The guys are really easy to get on with," Johnson said. "It’s really easy to transition. They make it easy. They talk back and give me good feedback in the game. It’s great. We’re on the same page from the time we step on the field in New York. With Rodrigo (Ramos) we tried to come up with a translation to make sure we’re on the same page and it shows. Everybody is on the same page and we waste no time getting on the pitch and gelling together.”

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.