Fire

Added time goal downs Fire against Montreal

Added time goal downs Fire against Montreal

Two streaks ended Saturday for the Chicago Fire.

The first was the club's shutout streak, which Didier Drogba ended with a 56th minute goal. The second was the four-match unbeaten streak after Ignacio Piatti scored in added time to down the Fire 2-1.

Piatti scored with a curling shot just outside the box to give the visitors the win after the Fire led at halftime.

"For sure it's difficult for us after having the lead and playing a good first half to see that we lost this game," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We have to learn how to play when we have a lead."

Kennedy Igboananike had given the Fire (1-2-3, 6 points) the lead in the 30th minute with an impressive curling shot from the left side of the box. Gilberto won a header at midfield and took advantage of a slip from the Montreal (4-2, 12 points) defense to start the break. Igboananike did the rest for his third goal of the season.

The Fire sat back and absorbed pressure without creating much before that goal. Igboananike's goal was the Fire's first shot on goal.

Some of that Montreal pressure was substantial, too. The Impact were inches from scoring in the 11th minute when a free kick found the head of Hassoun Camara. Camara's header got past goalkeeper Matt Lampson, but defender Jonathan Campbell was able to clear it off the line.

The Fire led 1-0 at halftime, but taking a lead into the second half meant Didier Drogba was a near-lock to come into the match. Drogba subbed on in the 50th minute and scored five minutes later because that's what legends do.

Matt Lampson cleared an inocuous back pass, but the errant pass landed right at the feet of Dominic Oduro. The former Fire forward hit a low cross into Drogba, who skillfully flicked the ball past Lampson into the goal.

"Honestly, I thought we neutralized him," Lampson said of Drogba. "That was a self-inflicted wound and he made us pay.

"He didn't create it. I created it for him."

That goal ended the Fire's shutout streak at 411 minutes, which set a new club record. The previous record was 395 minutes.

Matt Polster, who came on as a sub at halftime, became one of the Fire's best creating threats. In the 77th minute he burst down the left wing and hit a centering ball towards rookie Alex Morrell, who also subbed on, but Morrell's hard shot was nicely saved by Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush.

The move to start Polster on the bench was likely to give him some rest after a heavy recent workload that included playing for the Olympic qualifying team. Polster said he talked with Stephens about going forward more because he had fresher legs than Stephens and the Fire had been defending for much of the match.

When it appeared the match was headed for a draw, Piatti's killer shot silenced the Toyota Park crowd.

"For me, it wasn't a surprise," Paunovic said of Piatti's goal. "When I saw him coming inside, we prepared (for that). We knew that's how he likes to cut inside and finish, but the shot was perfect.

"What concerns me more is that we weren't mature in this game."

The Fire are off next weekend. The next match is April 30 at home against D.C. United.

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.