Fire

Veljko Paunovic, last place Fire trying to stay positive

Veljko Paunovic, last place Fire trying to stay positive

Due to mass roster turnover, a new coach and a new general manager it was clear that the 2016 season was going to be a rebuilding one for the Chicago Fire.

However, Major League Soccer's parity allows for teams to quickly turn things around. This season offers three good examples of that. The Fire were dead last in 2015, but the three teams that were just ahead of them in the standings, the Colorado Rapids, Philadelphia Union and New York City FC, all currently sit in playoff spots.

Colorado (7-2-3, 24 points) has the best record in the league. NYCFC (4-3-4, 16 points) is tied for the Eastern Conference lead and Philadelphia (4-3-3, 15 points) is just a point behind.

With that in mind, it's discouraging to see the Fire have not made similar strides, or really any at all from a results standpoint. The two road losses the Fire suffered last week dropped the team to 1-4-4 (7 points), the worst record in the league by three points. It matches the worst start in club history through nine matches.

While the acquisitions of Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell and Rodrigo Ramos add to hope for a longer-term turn around, the Fire haven't shown much sign of improvement overall. Still, coach Veljko Paunovic remained positive in what he said Monday during his weekly conference call with the media.

“Nobody likes to see where we are in the standings, but of course everyone is still very committed and everyone wants to work harder in order to improve that and to make it better," Paunovic said. "I absolutely believe in our guys and I think they all believe that only working and staying together can we improve and get out of this. It is too early to say we are in a bad position, but it is obvious that we have to win games and improve. We will do that.”

It's hard to say last place isn't a bad position, but Paunovic is right in one way. It is early enough that the Fire have a chance to get out of this position. NYCFC is the perfect example. New York City beat the Fire on opening day, but then went winless in seven straight. A current three-game winning streak has vaulted them to a share of the conference lead.

The point is things can turn around quickly in MLS with a winning run. Whether or not this Fire team has looked capable of that is another story. Obviously time will tell if they can get things going.

“We have the right players and the right guys," Paunovic said. "We know where we are and where we are standing, but for sure we will work hard and stay positive. We will improve.”

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.