Yallop implores Fire to show 'fight and spirit' in Columbus


Yallop implores Fire to show 'fight and spirit' in Columbus

The rivalry -- bound by geographical proximity and hostility -- between the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew SC has produced some memorable encounters since its inception in 1998.

History has favored the Men in Red, who've registered 24 victories in 54 league encounters between the two sides. But the Black & Gold have gradually stemmed the tide of the Fire's dominance in their last five MLS meetings -- notching three wins and two ties -- most recently demonstrated in Wednesday night's 1-0 triumph at Toyota Park. A 41st-minute goal from Kei Kamara sealed Crew SC's first win away from home all season, leaving Fire head coach Frank Yallop bemused by a grim first-half performance.        

"You've got to address Wednesday and then let it go," Yallop said Saturday. "We allowed a good team to play at our place and we can't let that happen again. It's a little different now, we're away from home, it's going to be baking hot. I want to see fight and spirit, not just from the start, but for the 90 minutes."

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On Sunday, Crew SC and the Fire converge for the third and final time in 2015, crowning the back end of their home-and-home series at Mapfre Stadium in front of a national audience (4 p.m. CT; ESPN2). The victory in midweek propelled Gregg Berhalter's group to second place in the Eastern Conference table, six points adrift of first-placed D.C. United and a comfortable seven points above the red line. Meanwhile, the Fire -- 11 points behind Crew SC -- are hoping to draw on a 2-2 draw against Columbus on May 22 as motivation to perhaps emerge from the Arch City with another result.

The Black & Gold have compiled a 6-2-2 record at home, losing out only to the New York Red Bulls in late March and the Montreal Impact on June 6. Moored to the foot of the standings on 18 points, the Men in Red know full well the task that lies ahead as they seek to buck the possibility of giving in to another losing trend.    

"I think it's been pretty solid," Yallop said when questioned about his team's leadership. "It's never easy when you're not winning and it's never easy when you haven't got the same lineup. You can't lead from the treatment room. It's about being on the field and doing it, and we've not had our most experienced players -- Jeff [Larentowicz], Shaun [Maloney] -- that much. It's hurt us a little bit.

"Leadership grows. You can't just snap your fingers, sign one guy and all of a sudden everyone gets led by him. It's got to grow and mature. I think we're in a position now where we're still behind, but we still have a chance. We're getting some of our guys back, and if we add to the squad -- which we're trying to do -- and get everyone on the field, we have no issues with it. In the meantime, when you're not winning it's tough."

[RELATED: Report: Fire pursuing Chelsea legend Didier Drogba]

With matches coming thick and fast, the prospect of a quick turnaround -- pending Sunday's outcome -- could bode well for Yallop's delegation, which is relishing the opportunity to do a number on their counterparts and exact revenge for Wednesday's aftermath. 

"I'm excited about it, the guys can't wait to get after it," Yallop added. "They know that that [Columbus game] wasn't us. There's nothing better than a few days later, you get a chance to put it right. Columbus are a good side, I've said it all along. They're a good side at full strength. 

"I'm going to change our lineup just to be fresh. It's game management with our squad. With a Saturday-Wednesday schedule, bodies break down and we can't afford that right now. Guys will get a chance to play and hopefully it gets us a good result." 

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.

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon


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.