Amarikwa: I've been looking to break through for a while now


Amarikwa: I've been looking to break through for a while now

In his third full season with the Chicago Fire, Quincy Amarikwa hasn't had much luck finding the back of the net. 

One of four players to have featured in all 14 MLS regular season matches thus far, half of the Bakersfield, Calif., native's appearances have come as a substitute. In that time, the Fire's No. 24 has let 32 shots fly at the opposition's goal, a team-leading statistic matched only by Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp.

Characterized by his dogged work rate and a willingness to goad defenders into turning the ball over, the 25-year-old's unswerving tenacity yielded his first goal of the season in the Men in Red's 1-0 extra time victory over USL's Louisville City FC.

"That's the name of the game: you create enough chances, and you take enough shots on goal, eventually you'll score," Amarikwa said. "That was the mentality going into the game. I've been looking to break through for a while now, and it's nice to get the monkey off your back. It's just a matter of continuing to not let the misses keep you from taking your next chance."

[RELATED: Amarikwa goal catapults Fire into fifth round of USOC]

Amarikwa's lone goal in Tuesday night's triumph snapped a prior three-game losing streak in the league, but against lower opposition in the fourth-round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fixture, clinical finishing - among some of the team's other collective concerns - materialized once more, evidenced by the 17 shots taken by the Fire, with only two of them registered on target.

A thorn in the side of the group through the better part of the campaign - which is rapidly nearing its halfway point - a disgruntled Frank Yallop also disclosed his discontentment with his players' lack of effort against a readily determined opponent, eventually calling on Amarikwa to provide the spark.      

"I didn’t think our first half was up to standards for a team trying to win the cup," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "This is round one, but you're trying to win a trophy. I thought we were sleep walking through it and not applying ourselves. And I told him that. I think a saw a response, not in our general play but in our desire. It showed in the end, we did keep going. We did get the goal that we wanted in the end. The result is all that matters.”

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With several regulars rested and others still recovering from having played 72 hours earlier, Yallop said it's difficult to judge a makeshift starting lineup from Tuesday's Open Cup display. 

Claiming their fourth clean sheet overall, the Men in Red now have the Open Cup fifth round draw (Thursday at 10 a.m.) to look forward to before returning to Toyota Park for another midweek encounter against D.C. United next Wednesday. As for Amarikwa, a first goal since providing the winning tally in preseason against Queens Park Rangers leads the striker to believe an upturn in playing time can present itself.  

"That was my first 120-minute game in a long time, and my first 90-minute game in a month and a half or two months," he added. "No matter how much you run in training or how much you train, it's not the same as match fitness. I did the best to run as much as I could to gain as much match fitness as I could today, and I'm hoping that translates into more minutes down the road."   

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.