Fire

Things could look different when the Fire next play at Toyota Park

Things could look different when the Fire next play at Toyota Park

The Chicago Fire picked up a win in the final home game of 2016, but the result seemed secondary to what lies ahead this offseason.

The Fire were officially out of contention with four games remaining in the regular season and Sunday was the third of those four games. The elephant in the room was that a number of the players may have played their last games at Toyota Park as members of the Fire.

After general manager Nelson Rodriguez said the team isn’t set in any position given the results of this season, it’s safe to think there will be a number of changes heading into 2017. The thing is, it’s not yet clear what those changes will be.

That will play out over the next few months, beginning with the front office’s decisions to pick up or decline the club options that apply to most of the current roster.

“We look forward to improve and get better for next season,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We have to finish the season on a positive side and then during the offseason we can continue building and working with the guys on their individual plans and everything else that we have to do before they go for vacation. Then when they come back they have to come back better than they went home.”

[RELATED: Fire excited to get a win for fans in home finale after disappointing season]

After years of rebuilding, it’s a familiar story for the Fire. This past offseason was the biggest change the club had seen in a few years. Rodriguez came in as general manager, brought in Paunovic as coach, made sweeping changes to the Academy and had other changes behind the scenes as well.

Some continuity could help, but it’s hard to justify keeping the status quo with the Fire currently in last place in the league.

“I think things are coming together still,” midfielder Matt Polster said. “It’s been a long year. I think with a lot of turnover from the beginning of the season, I know it’s 33 games into it now, but having too much turnover every year is tough just in general. I think if we can get a core group of guys and keep this team for next year and build off that, I think you’re going to see a little bit different (team). I think a little more chemistry as a team will help us.”

This is what Rodriguez and Paunovic face this offseason. Either stick with the core of a team that is last in the standings or endure another rebuilding offseason that requires the beginning portion of the season to be used on forming some chemistry.

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

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@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.

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

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USA TODAY

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.