Fire

In search of answers, Fire try to learn from draw in Orlando

In search of answers, Fire try to learn from draw in Orlando

Sunday’s scoreless draw at Orlando left the Chicago Fire frustrated and searching for answers as to why the team was unable to break through against the shorthanded Lions.

Orlando suffered a first-half red card, one which the league has since rescinded, and another in the second half to go down to nine men. The Fire were unable to get a shot on target after Orlando went down to nine.

The missed opportunity of getting a win away from home against a playoff rival in the Eastern Conference could haunt the Fire later on. For now, coach Veljko Paunovic and co. are trying to figure out how to fix what went wrong.

“I think it was a very tricky game,” Paunovic said. “When I spoke with our general manager, Nelson Rodriguez, he said it right. Something that we are good in, which is now controlling the game and being consistent in, that worked against us.

“Now we were comfortable in controlling the game, the thing that we haven’t been in the past. Now we are like this is our style, we can do it, we can do it. We were maybe too confident because we thought it’s going to come, it’s going to come, it’s going to come. What we lacked of was the sense of urgency. We woke up in the last five minutes, but it was too late.”

Rodriguez said during training on Wednesday that he opted for the glass half-full view that Sunday’s game was the first time the Fire controlled a game for all 90 minutes. While a team playing up a man for over an hour is expected to control the game, the Fire did have a majority of the possession even before Rafael Ramos’ controversial red card.

Another factor is how unusual the circumstances were. It’s not often teams defend in the way Orlando did because it’s not often teams are down to nine players.

“You know when you play against a team which has only nine or 10 players on the field they defend only, let’s say 35 meters,” midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “If you play against 11 sometimes it’s a little bit longer, the distance they have to defend.

“We were maybe not 100 percent sharp enough to win the game at the end of the day.”

Schweinsteiger, along with Dax McCarty, has been one of the most vocal players on the team in terms of saying there is room for improvement even after the results have improved.

“What I feel is like, especially after the Seattle victory at home, that we got more confidence,” Schweinsteiger said. “We believe. We play with a bigger chest. But still we are not on that level where I can say we are on a top level. We are on a good level, but we still have to improve.”

The broader view of the draw in Orlando is that, even if aided by the circumstances of the match and the two red cards, the Fire are looking back negatively at a draw on the road. Last year, the Fire had one win and two draws on the road out of 17 matches. This year’s team already has a win and three draws on the road.

Paunovic is looking at Sunday’s draw as a learning experience.

“This had to happen on the field so we can learn from that and I think we did,” Paunovic said. “We spoke about it, we had a long meeting for more than 30 minutes. Everyone gave his input and everyone was like, yes, we were all on the same page. We have to learn from this, we’ll learn.

“Now next time we have this situation I think we will be prepared.”

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.