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Accam notches fifth goal of 2015 as Fire fall to Crew SC

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Accam notches fifth goal of 2015 as Fire fall to Crew SC

David Accam's fifth goal of 2015 provided the Chicago Fire a glimmer of hope, but it was too little too late as the Men in Red succumbed to back-to-back defeats against Columbus Crew SC, stomaching a 3-1 decision in front of an announced crowd of 15,455 at Mapfre Stadium Sunday night.

Coming into the game after plucking four points from the Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders FC, Frank Yallop's men were hoping to atone for a dismal first-half display and subsequent defeat to Gregg Berhalter's outfit on Wednesday. Instead, a stout Crew SC held on to add to their formidable home record, dashing any hopes of a first away win of the season for the Fire.   

A back-and-forth exchange in the opening stages saw Federico Higuaín convert a spot kick in the second minute to give the hosts a dream start until Accam answered with a blistering free kick seven minutes later. Goals from Kei Kamara -- his fourth in three encounters with the Men in Red -- and Ethan Finlay in the 17th and 83rd minutes, however, helped the Black & Gold inch within five points of Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United.

Yallop made a quintet of changes from the side that featured midweek, with Adaílton returning from suspension (yellow card accumulation) and sliding alongside Eric Gehrig at center back, moving Matt Polster to right back in place of Lovel Palmer. Patrick Nyarko and Matt Watson came in for Michael Stephens and Chris Ritter, respectively, while Accam earned his first start since the Fire's 3-2 defeat to Orlando City SC on June 6, allowing Harry Shipp -- deputizing for Mike Magee -- to take up a No. 10 role behind forward Jason Johnson, who stood in for Kennedy Igboananike.

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The third and final installment between the two sides got off to a flying start, as the hosts went direct from the opening kick, drawing a penalty kick 12 seconds in -- the earliest ever awarded in an MLS match -- after Ethan Finlay was dubiously brought down by Sean Johnson in the box. Higuaín stepped up and cooly slotted home for his 32nd career goal for Crew SC and 13th career penalty kick conversion.

Seven minutes later, Jason Johnson's fine holdup play on the edge of the area helped Accam cement his storming introduction, hitting a free kick that deflected off Justin Meram in the Crew wall and past 'keeper Steve Clark. It was the seventh time Berhalter's group conceded in the first 15 minutes of matches this year.

After the Fire nearly found the go-ahead score moments later -- with Razvan Cocis getting on the end of Nyarko's delivery and ruled just offside in the process -- Crew SC restored their lead in the 17th minute. Kei Kamara's presence came back to haunt the Fire yet again, as the Sierra Leone international rose head and shoulders above Sean Johnson to power home a header off of Waylon Francis's lofted cross to secure his league-leading 14th tally.

The back-and-forth affair ensued as Nyarko -- earning his second start of the campaign -- caressed an expert cross from Patrick Doody, electing to dribble around Clark despite having a clear sight at goal from close range and squandering a golden opportunity to pull level.

[RELATED: Yallop implores Fire to show 'fight and spirit' in Columbus

Five minutes into the second half, the match went from bad to worse as Jason Johnson was issued his second yellow card for simulation, presenting Yallop's depleted delegation with an uphill battle to find an equalizer. Half chances from the Men in Red were well-managed by Crew SC, which was rewarded with a third goal seven minutes from time. 

Substitutes Chad Barson and Kristinn Steindórsson combined to find Finlay lurking at the back post in the 83rd minute, who provided the insurance goal to leave the Fire without a win on their travels for the 16th time since a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution on July 12, 2014. The Men in Red face another quick turnaround with a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal fixture against Orlando City SC Wednesday at Toyota Park before resuming MLS play at home against the Revolution three days later.  

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs):

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Matt Polster, Eric Gehrig, Adaílton, Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko (Guly do Prado, 70'), Matt Watson, Razvan Cocis (C), David Accam (Kennedy Igboananike, 70'); Harry Shipp (Collin Fernandez, 84'); Jason Johnson.

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

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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

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USA TODAY

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 MLSsoccer.com, 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.