2017 MLS SuperDraft primer: Will the Fire be active in trades again?


2017 MLS SuperDraft primer: Will the Fire be active in trades again?

Major League Soccer’s SuperDraft is tomorrow and the Fire have picks No. 3 and 11.

The combine concluded today with each of the thrown together teams playing three matches in five days. The draft is set to start at 2 p.m. and will be streamed on via YouTube. It is taking place in Los Angeles, nearby where the combine took place at the LA Galaxy's StubHub Center. The first two rounds are Friday while rounds three and four will take place via conference call on Tuesday.

After trading out of the second round to move up in the allocation order to sign Juninho on loan, the Fire have four draft picks. The two first rounders and one each in the third round (No. 47 overall) and fourth round (No. 69).

Who are the top prospects?

It depends on where you read (like here or here), but Duke’s Jeremy Ebobisse, UCLA’s Abu Danladi and Syracuse’s Miles Robinson are widely regarded as the top three prospects. All three are Generation adidas players, meaning they are underclassmen who don’t count against the cap.

The two incoming expansion teams, Minnesota and Atlanta, have the top two picks in the draft. With the third pick, the Fire would have the chance to get at least one of these players or go for someone different like Akron freshman Jonathan Lewis, who had spent some time in the Fire’s academy.

[MORE FIRE: The Fire's full 2017 schedule is announced]

What are the Fire’s needs entering the draft?

General manager Nelson Rodriguez has talked about the need to improve the team’s midfield, but it didn’t sound like a draft pick was what he had in mind. One highly-rated midfield option is UCLA product Jackson Yueill.

Right back remains a need, certainly in terms of depth if not a starting need, with Rodrigo Ramos not with the team anymore. Chris Odoi-Atsem out of Maryland is one of the top prospects at that position, but might be a bit of a reach with the third pick. If he is still available, he could be an option at No. 11.

The Fire could decide to take a flyer on a goalkeeper, but that might be something the team does with a third or fourth round pick if they liked someone to compete the third goalkeeper spot in camp.

It would be a minor surprise if the Fire take a forward with the third pick because that’s the one position the Fire have depth in terms of numbers. Ebobisse is the only outright forward of the top prospects. Danladi could also play on the wing, which is another point of need for the Fire.

In terms of drafting for need vs. best player available, Rodriguez said on Wednesday that they haven’t determined that balance yet.

“(We are) constantly reevaluating best player or greater need,” Rodriguez said. “Ultimately we’re going to have to make a decision because the draft is likely to come before we successfully close another player that we’re trying to acquire. There is an impact, an inexact science. We also have to measure the fit at 11, which is another selection to have. If we opt to fill a positional need at three, do we hold our breath that perhaps a player that we may have ranked higher, but had less of a need for is still there at 11 or vice versa? We have not made our decision yet.”

Keep in mind the Fire don’t have any international slots open currently. That should make it less likely for the Fire to draft a foreign player in the draft. If the Fire make a trade on draft day, Rodriguez made three last year, an international slot could be something the Fire look for in return.

Will the Fire make any trades?

On the topic of trades, that’s always a chance with Rodriguez in charge. He set the tone for a crazy draft last year by trading first pick Jack Harrison to New York City FC, the first time the first pick had ever been traded on draft day, and later made two more trades to wind up with Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell in the first round.

Rodriguez said that trading up or down is an option, but didn’t give much detail to which way he is leaning.

“We have our plan built out for the SuperDraft,” Rodriguez said. “We have contingencies and we have options built within that plan. We think there’s a depth of talent that we feel very good about our selections at No. 3 and No. 11. Of course we will consider all options made available to us. That might even include trading up or trading down.”

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

NBC Sports Chicago

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

Manchester City is coming off a season in which it dominated the English Premier League to the tune of a record 100-point season.

City is kicking off the preseason of its title defense in Chicago. City takes on Borussia Dortmund at Soldier Field on Friday night.

The last time the reigning Premier League champions were in Chicago was when rivals Manchester United came to Soldier to take on the Chicago Fire in 2011.

The Citizens won’t have the full arsenal of stacked stars for its U.S. tour, which also includes stops in New York and Miami as part of the International Champions Cup. Many of the team’s best players are getting a break after playing in the World Cup. Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, one of the stars of the tournament, is one of six Man City players to reach the semifinals.

Paul Dickov, who played for City for nearly 10 years between 1996 and 2008, is on tour with the team and talked about City’s preparations.

“The reason the clubs want to come to the States and play in International Champions Cup is the facilities are fantastic, the training facilities, the hotels, the treatment they get and just give them the best preparation going into what’s going to be a hard season,” Dickov said. “Nobody has won the Premier League back-to-back titles for nearly 10 years now so it’s going to be tough. Coming here and being able to prepare the way they can in the United States is going to put them on a long way to regain the title again.”

City brought the Premier League trophy to Wrigley Field on Thursday for the Cubs-Cardinals game. Dickov got to throw out the first pitch. The Scotsman threw a strike, much to his relief.

“I was quite calm beforehand, but I must admit when I got out there and I had to walk out there both hands started getting a bit sweaty,” he said. “I managed to make it and I got a fantastic reception off the Chicago Cubs fans so thank you to everybody at Chicago Cubs for having me there. It was great. Something I’ll never forget.”

Dickov compared Cubs fans to City fans in the way both teams struggled for a long time before finding success.

“They stuck by us through thick and thin when things weren’t as great,” Dickov said of Man City fans. “I suppose it’s a little bit like the Chicago Cubs here in Chicago. The fans turn out, they get 30-40 thousand, great atmosphere, back their team.”

While promoting the game, the Premier League trophy made multiple stops in Chicago, including with the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on an off day.

City also took the trophy and new signing Riyad Mahrez, who just joined Man City from 2016 champions Leicester City, to Haas Park in Logan Square. Haas Park includes a soccer field donated by Manchester City and the American embassy of the United Arab Emirates in 2012.

“The outcome of it has been great,” Dickov said. “Thousands of children and families benefiting, not just from the soccer part of it, but the education program as well. To be down there the other day for the full day and seeing the joy in the kids face seeing soccer here and the other activities that are on is great because, yeah, football is fantastic, soccer is fantastic and when you’re out there and you play you want to win, but it’s important, especially from Manchester City’s point of view, the city and the community. The stuff that they do off the field is second to none and it’s giving something back.”

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai


Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

The Fire have secured the transfer of midfielder Aleksandar Katai from Deportivo Alavés of the Spanish La Liga, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

This season’s breakout playmaker has been signed with Chicago through 2019, with a 2020 club option. Before the transfer, Katai was on loan from Alavés, which was set to expire after July.

The Serbian player has emerged as one of the most important pieces of the Fire’s offense this season. Since joining the club on Feb. 6, Katai has scored eight goals in 18 league matches, tying forward Nemanja Nikolić for the most on the team. Katai also has three assists in 2018.

The 27-year-old’s biggest game of the year came against New York City FC last month when he scored two goals to lead the Fire to 3-2 victory. His production this season in the MLS has been much more significant than it was in 23 matches with Alavés, where Katai only tallied three goals and four assists.

His transfer fee is unknown but, according to Sam Stejskal of, he will be a “Targeted Allocation Money player” for the rest of this season and will not be a Designated Player until 2019. Whatever the official price was, acquiring Katai for a lengthier amount of time seemed like a must.

Throughout this season, the Fire were rumored to be in talks with legendary Spanish striker Fernando Torres. On Tuesday, he signed with Sagan Tosu, a Japanese club. The Fire signed Katai the next day, showing that the team was possibly waiting for Torres to leave the market.

Chicago will face the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night at Toyota Park, where Katai will look to continue his impressive season.