Fire

Trade emotional for both Harry Shipp and Fire fans

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Trade emotional for both Harry Shipp and Fire fans

In professional sports, players leave and trades happen. That’s part of the business side of sports.

However, when the Chicago Fire traded Harry Shipp on Saturday, the business side caused some tears to be shed.

Shipp tweeted out a statement Saturday afternoon explaining what the Fire meant to him as a childhood fan of the team and thanked fans for his time with the club.

“When I was told out of the blue that I would no longer be a member of the Fire, I immediately broke down and started crying,” Shipp said in the statement. “It was totally shocking and overwhelming. This club and this city have meant everything to me. Not just for the past two years, but since I started following the Fire over 15 years ago. I know this is a business and nothing is personal, but this is inherently personal for me.”

Those words and feelings likely echoed throughout the fanbase. Take one look at the responses to the Fire’s tweet announcing the trade. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

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Shipp may not be the star fans thought he would be after a strong rookie campaign. He could also see his production skyrocket this season in Montreal with Didier Drogba leading the Impact’s attack.

Regardless, the reason many fans are probably upset is because Shipp represented something the Fire haven’t had enough of in recent years. He was a talented young player with local roots and on top of that was a genuinely nice person. Shipp was becoming the face of the franchise and, whether or not his play on the field warranted it, Shipp was the most well-known Fire player within Chicagoland.

When Shipp emerged as a star at Notre Dame, led the Fighting Irish to the national title in 2013 and became one of the top rookie prospects in Major League Soccer, it gave the Fire some much-needed buzz that he could sign as a Homegrown Player. After he was Rookie of the Year runner-up, Fire fans had a player to latch onto as someone to be proud of.

Everyone loves a local kid makes good story and the Chicago Fire had one of its own. As Academy players continue to sign with the Fire, and more are on the way, none have made the impact Shipp has had.

Fire fans have become skeptical in recent years. That’s what happens when a team makes the playoffs just once in six years in a league where more than half of the league makes the playoffs. Shipp cut through that to give the team and fans something positive and it’s hard to put a price on that. Yet, that’s exactly what happened on Saturday.

“Unfortunately all I was able to contribute was two of the statistically worst seasons in Fire history, and that genuinely breaks my heart more than you could imagine,” Shipp said. “I’m sorry that I was unable to do more for the city, because if anyone understands what this city deserves in a soccer club, it is me.”

[MORE: Paunovic praises Fire's young players]

The Fire don’t yet have something tangible to show for the trade of Shipp. That said, general manager Nelson Rodriguez is surely not ignorant to the situation. He knew what this trade meant and what Shipp meant to Fire fans. Rodriguez obviously believes this can make the club better.

A move like this is likely the set up to another move and that move may heal all wounds that Fire fans are feeling now. However, this signifies something else for Rodriguez. The patience he has had every right to ask for earlier this offseason just got thinner.

Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic have put an emphatic stamp on the club before the season opener. This is their team. Of the Fire players currently on the roster, only Sean Johnson was with the team at the start of the 2014 season. Razvan Cocis, who signed midway through that season, is now the second most tenured player in the club.

It’s easy to explain why that kind of rebuild was needed for a team that has struggled for so long. However, Rodriguez stepped up with a bold move on Saturday. For his sake, and for Fire fans, hopefully it works out.

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?

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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.