After loss to Impact, Fire look to bounce back against Red Bulls


After loss to Impact, Fire look to bounce back against Red Bulls

When Frank Yallop looks back on the Fire’s last 27 regular season games, putting a finger on a solitary factor that has confined his team to last place in the Eastern Conference has proven to be more complex with the passing of time.

Earlier in the season, scoring issues hampered a struggling strike force. Without 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee, a considerable goalscoring burden was placed on the shoulders of newcomers Kennedy Igboananike and David Accam – among others – who found it difficult to find their feet after making the leap from the Swedish first division.

Fast-forward a few months and you’ll find Yallop delighted to be praising both of his prime, offseason acquisitions who, on seven goals apiece, appear to have hit their groove alongside Gilberto, who notched his first goal for the club in the 4-3 defeat to the Montreal Impact. A crippling and conceivably decisive blow to their postseason hopes, the Fire’s 14th loss of 2015 – equaling their total recorded in all of 1999 – left a bitter taste in the mouths of many and brought a more pronounced bag of issues to the fore. 

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“We haven’t defended well as a group,” Yallop said Wednesday. “Anytime you concede four goals, you don’t deserve to win the match. … We’re not putting the games together where defensively, we’re solid and we can score three goals. It’s either or: we score goals and we concede them in the same game, or we can’t score and the team punishes us for one chance. We’ve just got to get that balance.”

That balance will have to be discovered quickly when the Fire (7-14-6, 27 points) close out their three-match road spell with a visit to Red Bull Arena to face the New York Red Bulls (12-7-6, 42 points) on Friday night (6 p.m. CT; UniMás).

Four of the Fire’s remaining seven games will be played away from home – including the trip to Harrison, N.J. – leaving no room for error if they are to make up the four-point gap that separates them from Montreal in the table. The Impact (9-11-4, 31 points) occupy the sixth and final playoff spot with three games in hand on the Men in Red and New York City FC (7-13-7, 28 points), and two on Orlando City SC (7-13-8, 29 points) and the Philadelphia Union (8-14-6, 30 points).

Eclipsing Jesse Marsch’s side – which is currently in the midst of an extended break following a 3-0 drubbing of fellow Supporters’ Shield contender D.C. United – will be no easy feat. But the Fire will be comforted by their impressive showing against the Red Bulls at Toyota Park just two weeks prior.

[RELATED: New Fire defender Daneil Cyrus ready to make his mark]

“Just in general, we haven’t really had a good feeling of how to see a game through or win a game 1-0,” Yallop said. “It comes with a bit of time, but we’ve got to figure it out. If we can get a win on Friday, it does open it up again for us. It’s a tough game, but we’ve played against them, and we outplayed them at home. We’ve got to go there and expect to do the same.”

With victory paramount against the Red Bulls in a difficult setting, Yallop will seek out the best composite of players that fit the bill, and will surely benefit from having all of his first-choice starters back from international duty. The return of Accam will supply the Fire with more speed and natural width, while Joevin Jones and Matt Polster – to go along with Ty Harden’s recovery from a hamstring injury and Daneil Cyrus’ long-awaited arrival – will collectively provide more balance within the side to help nullify the Red Bulls’ high-press approach.

“We have to be comfortable defending in our own half, we have to be comfortable defending as a group,” captain Jeff Larentowicz added. “In an MLS game, there’s always going to be times when you give up chances, and you have to be able to weather those storms.”

Viewing information:

New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire

Kickoff time: 6 p.m. CT

Where: Red Bull Arena; Harrison, N.J.

Broadcast: UniMás, Univision Deportes       

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.