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Chicago Fire venue to be renamed SeatGeek Stadium

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The Chicago Fire won’t be moving into a new stadium 2019, however, their venue will have a new name donned on the side of it.

For years, the Eastern Conference side has played its home matches at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, but starting next season the Fire’s home turf will be called SeatGeek Stadium as part of a rebrand.

SeatGeek is one of the largest online after-market ticket distributors, and was created back in 2009.

Toyota Park will undergo its transformation at the conclusion of the 2018 MLS season.

The venue is also home to the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars.

Report: Fernando Torres prefers MLS move over China

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At a time where Major League Soccer has growingly become more and more youthful, a veteran presence could be gracing the league very soon.

[ MORE: How does Man City stack up against PL’s best clubs? ]

Recently, Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed his long (very long) awaited move to the LA Galaxy, but now another veteran striker could be calling MLS his home once his contract in Spain expires at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Fernando Torres has been on the radar of several MLS sides, and the former Spanish international is reportedly keen on a move to the U.S. instead of one to the China Super League.

The Montreal Impact, Chicago Fire, Seattle Sounders, New York City FC and Sporting Kansas City have each been linked with “El Nino” since word came out that Torres’ time at Atletico Madrid would end in 2018.

The Fire are believed to hold the Discovery Rights to Torres if he does in fact decide to join MLS at some point.

This season, Torres’ role at Atleti has been reduced significantly with the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa up front, however, the former World Cup winner has still scored eight goals in 36 appearances for the club.

MLS roundup: Another winner for Zlatan; Quintero’s debut goal

Photo credit: Minnesota United / @MNUFC
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A roundup of, plus a few quick thoughts about, all of Saturday’s action from around MLS…

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

Chicago Fire 0-1 LA Galaxy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has played all of 127 minutes since arriving in LA, and he’s got three goals to his name, including the winner at Toyota Park, but more importantly the Galaxy have won six points from the big Swede’s first three games in MLS. Saturday’s 1-0 win away to Chicago was anything but pretty — blame the freezing, windy conditions if you require a scapegoat — but it’s a step forward for last year’s last-place finishers nonetheless.

The Ibrahimovic-Ola Kamara partnership is, predictably, a work in progress, not at all unlike the Perry Kitchen-Jonathan dos Santos duo in central midfield. Alas, there’s more than enough talent (on paper) for LA to finish top-three or -four in a weak Western Conference (they’re up to second, now three points behind Sporting Kansas City), and they’ve arguably the biggest difference maker in league history to lean on down the stretch.

Portland Timbers 3-2 Minnesota United

Here are two statements that are undeniably true: the Timbers are a very talented team that can’t keep a clean sheet to save their lives (just seven since the start of the 2017 season — 40 regular-season games) and are almost as bad at closing out games with a late lead; Minnesota have some fun attacking pieces, including debutant and goalscorer Darwin Quintero, but they’re still a trainwreck defensively, individually. Thus, we should have known Saturday’s clash at Providence Park would be a thoroughly wild, nonsensical affair, because it was all on display on Saturday.

For the third straight game, Portland went ahead early on and (almost, this time) proceeded to cough up their lead and drop points. Fortunately for Gio Savarese, who got his first MLS win on the night, Minnesota couldn’t convert any one of a number of quality chances to get back to 2-2 early in the second half, and the hosts bagged a third almost completely against the run of play. Well done to Bill Poni Tuiloma, though, for an unbelievable finish on this own goal.

New York Red Bulls 3-1 Montreal Impact

If their was any doubt about the Red Bulls’ trophy-chasing credentials following last week’s CONCACAF Champions League defeat to Chivas de Guadalajara, Jesse Marsch’s men put them to bed on Saturday. Bradley Wright-Phillips opened the scoring after five minutes, but Montreal drew level through Jeisson Vargas not long after the half-hour mark. Alejandro “Kaku” Romero put the home side ahead again, in emphatic fashion, just before the hour mark.

Elsewhere in MLS

San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Houston Dynamo
Colorado Rapids 2-0 Toronto FC(‘s Reserves)
D.C. United 1-0 Columbus Crew SC
New England Revolution 0-1 FC Dallas

WATCH: Zlatan scores again; LA Galaxy beat Schweinsteiger, Fire

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune via AP
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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in his first MLS start and the Los Angeles Galaxy beat the Chicago Fire 1-0 on Saturday.

Ibrahimovic headed home Ashley Cole‘s deep diagonal cross in the first minute of first-half stoppage time.

The Swedish forward played as a substitute in his first two appearances for the Galaxy (3-2-1). He has three goals in 127 minutes.

Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham made four saves to preserve his second clean sheet of the season.

The Fire dropped to 1-3-1.

MLS: Atlanta buzzsaw rips LAFC; Chicago struggling; VAR (still) a mess

Photo credit: Atlanta United / @ATLUTD
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The sixth Saturday of the 2018 MLS season is in the books, and as always, we learned a few lessons from the afternoon and evening’s slate of games…

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

Return of the ATL buzzsaw

Atlanta United were shut out — and blown out — on opening day just over a month ago, and the knee-jerk reactions were as predictable as they were flimsy: Are they really that good? Maybe they just had a lucky season last year? You can’t play like that in MLS and expect to win.

That narrative lasted, quite literally, all of 90 minutes before Tata Martino’s men dismantled D.C. United and Vancouver Whitecaps by a combined score of 7-2 in back-to-back weeks immediately thereafter and ground out a 1-0 win over Minnesota United while playing 52 minutes a man down last week. The Five Stripes’ resurgent run came to a head on Saturday, when they hammered Los Angeles FC, the expansion side upon which so much praise was heaped following wins in their first two games, to the tune of 5-0. Miguel Almiron scored two from the penalty spot, to go with single tallies from Josef Martinez, Julian Gressel and Romario Williams.

On Saturday, it was Gressel who stood head and shoulders above his peers, as the 24-year-old German import (via last year’s SuperDraft) bagged the game’s opening goal and delivered the seeing-eye cross to Martinez for the second which all but put the game to bed. At right, you’ll find the entirety of Gressel’s contributions for the afternoon, on both end of the field.

A few observations: 1) there’s not a single unsuccessful pass shorter than 10 or 15 yards in distance; 2) he’s extremely tidy when involved in short, combination play; 3) the location of his defensive actions, all of which are inside Atlanta’s defensive half of the field, placed alongside his passing map, paint a clear picture of just how active and involved he is over the course of 90 minutes.

Teammates like Martinez, Almiron, Ezequiel Barco, Hector Villalba and even Darlington Nagbe will get 95 percent of the headlines coming out of Atlanta this year — and rightly so, nothing should be taken away from them — but it’s someone like Gressel, who functions like the glue that hold all those entertaining, attacking parts together, while managing to contribute more than his fair share of danger, that has this buzzsaw ripping through opponents week in and week out.

[ MORE: Agent: Giuseppe Rossi could seek MLS move after two years ]

VAR is… struggling… still… still

Atlanta midfielder Chris McCann was sent off for a reckless tackle, which occurred 36 seconds into the game, that referee Ted Unkel deemed to have endangered the safety, in one way or another, of LAFC’s Benny Feilhaber. Unkel then consulted his handy-dandy video-assistant review system, and reversed the call, drastically changing the events and outcome of the ensuing 89 minutes.

If you watched the above clip, you’ll probably agree it’s something commonly referenced as an “orange-card” offense — just shy of a sending-off, but worse than your run-of-the-mill yellow card — which is just a clever way to say that it’s far from a “clear and obvious error” (yet again, that’s the language of MLS and the Professional Referee Organization), which is, of course, the threshold for a reviewable decision. No matter the initial call — red or yellow — it’s planted firmly in the gray area between yes and no, right and wrong.

If you watched that clip, you’ll find another extremely gray-area decision that initially went against Atlanta, only for Unkel to change his mind after a video review. I’m of the opinion it’s probably a foul — one that Almiron baits Walker Zimmerman into and undoubtedly embellishes — but it’s nowhere near definitive one way or another, which is the mandatory requirement to review the call on the field.

In the grand scheme of the game, it mattered very little, but if this is the willy-nilly process by which refs choose whether or not to review calls on the field, it’s going to rear its ugly head at a critical point in a game in the near future, and continue to do so until there’s a uniform process in place. The fact we’re left to wonder about the thought process of refs is, easily, the most frustrating part and does little to dispel the notion that MLS refs aren’t up to the standard of the league’s players and they too routinely impact the outcome of games.

[ MORE: CONCACAF issues punishments for TFC-America fracas in CCL ]

A win, but the same old problems for Chicago

Here’s the good news for Chicago Fire fans: after two losses and a draw to start the season, your team beat Columbus Crew SC and got its first win on Saturday.

Here’s the bad news: it was an identical offensive performance to those first three games, only with a Howler of the Year nominee from Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen to bail out an attacking unit totally bereft of ideas and execution.

This is hardly a new development for Veljko Paunovic’s side, which lacked any semblance of a focal-point playmaker last season. Here’s some worse news, as something of an aside: it wasn’t addressed during the offseason, and the secondary transfer window might be too late in a deep Eastern Conference (the primary window is still open, but April and May are practical non-starters for transfer activity).

You can see, clear as day, where the gaping hole exists, as well as some pretty damning statistics. Paunovic’s plan ahead of Saturday’s win over Columbus was to pair a target man, Alan Gordon, with the defending Golden Boot Winner, Nemanja Nikolic, presumably to provide a bit of hold-up and knock-down play for Nikolic to swarm around and make runs off of. It… well, didn’t really work, as Nikolic touched the ball just once times inside Crew SC’s penalty area — his goal, which resulted from a wayward pass from the opposing goalkeeper.