Fire

Amarikwa goal catapults Fire into fifth round of USOC

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Amarikwa goal catapults Fire into fifth round of USOC

On a picture-perfect evening at Toyota Park, it took a 116th-minute goal from Quincy Amarikwa for the Chicago Fire to punch their ticket into the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Wholesale changes from head coach Frank Yallop saw Sean Johnson, Chris Ritter, Michael Stephens, Matt Watson, Quincy Amarikwa and Jason Johnson break into the starting lineup in the 1-0 extra-time victory over Louisville City FC Tuesday evening.

"It was nice to get a clean sheet tonight; forget the opposition," said Yallop in his post-match press conference. "I am excited about the prospect of this team, it is an exciting team. I talked before; we wanted to make it a team that was good to watch. I don’t think you can judge us on that tonight, a lot of guys out, a lot of exciting players out.”

Following his debut in the 2-0 loss to New England Revolution, Greg Cochrane was restored into the side, sliding back to left back in place of Lovel Palmer. Matt Polster partnered alongside Adailton at center back as captain Jeff Larentowicz couldn't recover from a slight groin injury. Eric Gehrig retained his role at right back after a 90-minute showing in Foxborough.

[RELATED - Fire hold U.S. Open Cup in high regard: 'It's got history here']

Stephens and Ritter operated in the center of the midfield, with Watson and Harry Shipp situated to their right and left, respectively. Jason Johnson and Quincy Amarikwa spearheaded the Fire attack, replacing Guly do Prado and Kennedy Igboananike.

The Men in Red looked comfortable in possession through the opening quarter of an hour, controlling the rhythm while Louisville looked comfortable absorbing the pressure themselves.

Yallop's outfit struggled to create any cogent chances worthy of unnerving the USL delegation, however, with the visitors enjoying a somewhat fruitful first half excursion in their first match against MLS opposition. Louisville forward Matt Fondy - making his first appearance against his former team - stripped the Men in Red defense in the 12th minute and fired a low shot at Johnson, forcing a diving save from the Fire 'keeper. Ten minutes later, midfielder Magnus Rasmussen stung the tip of the crossbar with a rifling effort.

Just past the half hour mark, Amarikwa pounced on a terrible error from the Louisville back line, giving him a 1v1 opportunity against goalkeeper Scott Goodwin, but the Men in Red's most dangerous chance was spurned as he sent his slicing shot wide of the frame.

After emerging from the halftime interval scoreless, Shaun Maloney made his return from international duty with Scotland and entered the fray for Matt Watson to start the second half, turning a 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 formation into a 4-2-3-1 setup.

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The Men in Red came out with a relatively improved attitude to begin the second 45, but again failed to generate any meaningful chances to unsettle the visitors. A glancing header from Amarikwa in the 71st minute went just wide of Goodwin's frame, while Niall McCabe in the closing minutes arguably should have won the match for Louisville, if not for Adailton's intervention with a last-ditch tackle to keep the score deadlocked at zero.

The fourth-round fixture was subsequently forced into two, 15-minute extra time periods as the two sides failed to muster a late goal in regulation. With Maloney forced to exit from the second period with back spasms and not many shots hitting the target, it seemed as if penalty kicks beckoned. That was until Amarikwa turned home a wayward shot from Brazilian Guly do Prado with his head four minutes from time to allow the hosts to breathe a sigh of relief as the full time whistle followed.

"We won the game and we are into the next round," added Yallop. "I’ve got to take the positive and that was: we kept going, we kept fighting, we kept pushing. I know the team we are playing against is a lower league team, but I think with the guys we had missing and what we did on Saturday, it was a hard match for us and I think we obviously did enough to win.”

The narrow triumph sets up the Men in Red for the next phase of the tournament, which will be determined with the fifth round draw to take place Thursday at 10 a.m.    

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson (C); Eric Gehrig, Matt Polster, Adailton, Greg Cochrane; Matt Watson (Shaun Maloney, 46', Razvan Cocis, 97'), Chris Ritter, Michael Stephens, Harry Shipp; Jason Johnson (Guly do Prado, 63'), Quincy Amarikwa.      

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.