Fire

On the eve of playoffs, Fire drawing eerie similarities to 2012

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USA TODAY

On the eve of playoffs, Fire drawing eerie similarities to 2012

The last time the Fire made the playoffs was 2012 and there are a few striking similarities between that year’s Fire team and the 2017 version.

In 2012, the Fire had a second-year coach (Frank Klopas) and were coming off consecutive years of missing the playoffs. The Fire missed the postseason in 2010 and 2011, but stormed through the regular season with 17-11-6 mark. That was the best points per game record since the Fire’s Supporters’ Shield-winning 2003 team.

The ‘12 Fire began the season with a so-so record, going 5-5-3 to start the season. During that period, the Fire lost on the road to a minor-league team, the Michigan Bucks, in extra time in the U.S. Open Cup.

Then the team got hot with an 11-3-2 run through summer and into the early fall. The Fire were as high as second in the Eastern Conference standings, but lost a big showdown with conference-leading Kansas City before dropping a home match to a Philadelphia team well out of the race the following match.

The Fire went 1-3-1 in the final five matches of the regular season and fell to fourth in the standings, just missing out on a first-round bye (this is when five teams made the playoffs from each conference so there were three byes on each side as opposed to the two now). In the playoffs, the Fire hosted a Houston team in the first round that had lots of playoff experience and had made the MLS Cup final the year before. Houston won 2-1, ending the Fire’s season earlier than expected.

Entering this year, the Fire had a second-year coach (Veljko Paunovic) and were coming off missing the postseason for the previous four years, but easily qualified for the playoffs with a 16-11-7 record. That’s the best record since that 2012 season.

This year’s Fire began the season with a so-so record, going 3-3-3 to start the season. Then the team got hot with an 8-0-2 run through late spring and into the middle of summer. During that period, the Fire lost on the road to a minor-league team, FC Cincinnati, in penalty kicks in the U.S. Open Cup. The Fire were leading MLS at the peak, but dropped off a bit and lost a big showdown with league-leading Toronto before dropping a home match to a Minnesota team well out of the race the following match.

The Fire went 5-8-2 in the final 15 matches of the regular season and fell to third in the standings, just missing out on a first-round bye. In the playoffs, the Fire host a New York Red Bulls team in the first round that has lost of playoffs experience, having made it to now eight straight postseasons.

Will the end result be the same?

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.