Fire

Worst-case scenario: Michael de Leeuw out for season with ACL rupture

de-leeuw-1002.jpg
USA TODAY

Worst-case scenario: Michael de Leeuw out for season with ACL rupture

The tone of Veljko Paunovic's voice in the postgame press conference told the story even if there was no word on a diagnosis. Michael de Leeuw's injury wasn't good.

What the Fire coach alluded to became official on Monday with the Fire saying that de Leeuw suffered a left ACL rupture. The Dutch forward suffered the injury in a collision in the 26th minute of Saturday's 1-1 draw against New York City FC.

He was going for a loose ball and his left leg didn't appear to be firmly planted, but the direct contact on his knee did enough damage to cause the injury. He immediately signaled for help as he lay on the field. De Leeuw was carried off the field by two trainers and didn't put any weight on his left leg.

The injury will cost him the rest of the 2017 season, including all of the playoffs, and will likely cost him the start of 2018 as well. De Leeuw's contract is guaranteed through 2018 and the Fire hold an option for 2019.

"The whole locker room is feeling that," Paunovic said. "It’s a bad situation for the team."

The injury is a big blow to the team in general for multiple reasons. For one, he leads the team with eight assists, including three in the past five matches. His work rate in the withdrawn forward/attacking midfield role has been key in pressing opposing midfields and he has shown a knack for setting up his teammates with impressive volley passes.

In addition, the player many of his teammates simply call "Lion" due to his last name meaning "the lion" in Dutch, is one of the more vocal players on the team. The 30-year-old has become one of the leaders on the team since joining last summer.

De Leeuw has scored 10 goals and been credited with 11 assists in 48 MLS matches for the Fire.

As the Fire prepare for the postseason, de Leeuw's absence complicates the Fire's preferred lineup and formation. He has played underneath striker Nemanja Nikolic, the leading goal-scorer in MLS, and fits in that position better than anyone else on the team. Luis Solignac has adapted well to playing in more of a wide role this season, but may be the most likely candidate to take de Leeuw's spot. Arturo Alvarez, who has started the last four matches, could then take Solignac's spot.

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.