After win vs. RBNY, Fire crave encore performance at Orlando


After win vs. RBNY, Fire crave encore performance at Orlando

"Sharp." "Fast." "Attacking."

When asked to describe the stark contrast between the Fire's 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids and 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls, rookie Matt Polster was quick to perceive the disparities, highlighting the response his teammates showed in putting together a three-goal effort for the fourth time in regular season play this year.

"I thought we were the better side against Colorado, but unfortunately, we let a goal in early and they just packed it in," said the 22-year-old on Friday, after learning of his call-up to the U-23 U.S. camp

In essence, the two games - both played at Toyota Park within a span of four days - epitomized the Men in Red's season to date: following up a discouraging result with an encouraging performance, and a desirable scoreline to match it. It's happened more than once this season.

Frank Yallop's men countered a season-opening, three match losing skid with three wins on the trot, followed up back-to-back draws against New York City FC and Columbus Crew SC with a 3-0 drubbing of the Montreal Impact to round out May and built on a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo with their first-ever win against Seattle Sounders FC eight days later.

[RELATED: Fire wary of 'big, big' hill to climb to keep playoff hopes alive]

The list goes on, and, after dethroning the Red Bulls and ending their six-match unbeaten run on Wednesday night, the Fire (7-13-5, 26 points) are craving an encore performance against Orlando City SC (7-12-7, 28 points) Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl (6:30 p.m. CT; CSN+), which marks the beginning of a three-game road trip.

"We've got to feel good about ourselves from Wednesday, and hopefully we're nice and fresh," Yallop said Friday. "They [Orlando] didn't have a midweek game; they had a friendly, but the starters didn't get a midweek game. It's always a little bit in the back of your mind, but our guys are buoyant and ready, and can't wait for the game."

As it stands in the Eastern Conference standings, the Fire have a game in hand on Orlando City, who've shipped 13 goals in their last four games - not including a 3-1 loss in an exhibition against USL's Louisville City FC. With both sides on the outside looking in - the Men in Red sitting two points adrift of a playoff berth - it's all to play for. 

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]

While the Fire enter Saturday night's clash against Adrian Heath's side behind an inspiring display against a red-hot Red Bulls team, the scene changes as six of their nine remaining fixtures will be played away from the confines of Toyota Park. In 11 regular season matches this year, the Men in Red have won none, lost seven and drawn four, a record that stretches further than just the 2015 campaign.

It's a statistic and narrative of the team's poor away form - winless since July 2014 - that suggests an inability to put the finishing touches on predominantly committed performances. If anything can been learned from results league-wide, the right blend of endeavor, clinical finishing and, perhaps a stroke of luck along the way can see any team coming away with a favorable result on the road.  

"It just goes to show how some of these other teams have done not so well either," midfielder Michael Stephens added of the parity in MLS. "The fact that we're only two points off is pretty shocking, but it is what it is. A lot of these teams in the bottom of the East, we keep beating each other and then a lot of the teams at the top of both conferences keep winning. ... There's still so much to play for."

Viewing information:

Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire

Kickoff time: 6:30 p.m. CT

Where: Citrus Bowl; Orlando, Fla.

Broadcast: CSN Chicago Plus    

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.