Bastian Schweinsteiger scores again, Fire cruise to win

Bastian Schweinsteiger scores again, Fire cruise to win

Bastian Schweinsteiger has made quite the early impression with the Chicago Fire.

The German midfielder, who wasn't noted for his goal-scoring ability in his European career, scored for the second time in three matches in the Fire's 3-0 win against the New England Revolution.

The Fire had a man advantage from the 27th minute on after Je-Vaughn Watson picked up his second yellow card. Still the Fire didn't have any shots on target for almost the entire first half. Then Schweinsteiger received a pass from Luis Solignac, weaved through the Revolution defense in the box and scored with a low shot to beat goalkeeper Cody Cropper in the 45th minute.

The ironic thing is that Schweinsteiger had more turnovers in the first half than he did in his first two Fire games, but all was forgotten once he scored. Nemanja Nikolic added two goals in the second half to put the game away.

This is the first time in coach Veljko Paunovic's tenure that the Fire have won consecutive league matches. It also marked the end of a three-game homestand in which the Fire gained seven points with two wins and a draw.

"We have our identity now," Nikolic said. "Everybody so badly wanted to play and of course when the atmosphere in the team is good and when the players behind me are in good form, for me it's also easier. They gave me great balls today and I scored two goals, but the most important thing is that in these three games we played at home we achieved seven points and now we have a very difficult three games away so we have to prepare for this from tomorrow."

After failing to get the second goal and put the game away against Columbus last week, the Fire didn't waste much time getting the second goal this time. Two minutes into the second half Solignac again played creator with a centering ball from the right. Initially Michael de Leeuw couldn't connect with a shot, but the ball sat right for  Nikolic to finish in front.

Nikolic scored his second later in the half when David Accam, who entered off the bench just over a minute earlier, passed a ball into Nikolic's stride. Nikolic scored his fourth goal of the season with a first-time shot.

With the man advantage, the Fire (3-1-2, 11 points) controlled the game and earned a second straight shutout. The confidence within the team was apparent on the field, although playing up a man for over an hour tends to help with that.

"It goes game-by-game, you got to see what kind of battles you get into early in the game and today it turned out where they went a man down," defender Brandon Vincent said. "It made it easier on us in the back where we could have more possession and not have to defend too much. It's game-by-game, but definitely feeling more confident."

The Fire had over 75 percent of the possession, including holding a majority of the possession before the red card. New England (2-3-1, 7 points) didn't manage to get a shot on target for the first 80 minutes.

"Going back to that locker room and seeing the guys happy and confident and now feeling that we can win every single game, which wasn't the case in the past," Paunovic said. "That's something that motivates me more. That's why we have to work and work and keep on improving."

The Fire, which start a three-game road trip after this, moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with the win.

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.