Fire

Bliss hopes to replicate past interim stint, win with Fire in Montreal

mtlvchi09222015.png

Bliss hopes to replicate past interim stint, win with Fire in Montreal

If the narrative of Brian Bliss provisionally setting aside his daily chores as technical director and taking up the role of interim head coach – and winning – sounds familiar, it should.

When Columbus Crew SC owner Andrew Precourt relieved then head coach Robert Warzycha of his duties in the latter stages of the 2013 regular season, Bliss deputized for the remaining eight games. Between Sept. 4-Oct. 27, he posted four losses, but won four matches – two of which came away from home – in the process and nearly helped push Crew SC into the postseason.

After overseeing his first training session as the Chicago Fire’s interim head coach on Monday, with interim assistant and current club Vice President Logan Pause and Head of Scouting Trevor James in tow, Bliss was quick to remind reporters of a befitting memory.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]  

“I had my first away victory with Columbus in Montreal,” he said.

On Wednesday, Bliss will patrol the technical area yet again and look to do the same as the Fire (7-16-6, 27 points) visit the Montreal Impact (10-11-6, 36 points) for the second time this month, the third and final installment between both sides this season (7 p.m. CT; My50 Chicago).

"It's going to take a good, collective effort," Bliss added. "I don't want to peg myself as a defensive coach, but in the last month and a half we've leaked more goals than we have in the first two-thirds of the year. We need to be more committed, sharper, not only individually but collectively. I think we have enough talent to score goals, but when you're scoring two or three on the road and still not getting results then you've got to start looking at the collective defending. I'm not saying we have to shut somebody out, that would be nice, but I just think overall commitment on the defensive side will help."

[RELATED: Sean Johnson, Eric Gehrig suffer season-ending injuries

In their last six away regular season fixtures alone - which dates back to a 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers on Aug. 7 - the Fire have leaked 13 goals. The team posted at least two goals and led in three of those six (a 3-3 draw with the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 16, a 4-3 loss to the Impact on Sept. 5 and a 3-2 collapse against the New York Red Bulls). Before then, similar issues surfaced in back-to-back draws with New York City FC and Crew SC in May.

With only a month remaining and playoff hopes hanging by a thread, jobs are at stake and there's little room for error with more games left to play away from the confines of Toyota Park.  

“In this transitional period, I think we needed that,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said of the idea of team bonding throughout the weeklong stay in Canada. “We’re going to be together on the road for almost a week, and it builds character. We get to know the coaches a little bit more, how they like to operate. … Right now, it’s just about getting something positive. Be it a positive performance or something headed toward the right direction because that’s what we need. We’re just building toward the future and the next year, but it has to start now. We need to identify what we’re lacking and what we need to do to be successful as a team, and then buy into it and go from there.” 

[MORE FIRE: Busch, Nyarko take comfort in familiarity with Brian Bliss]

Viewing information:

Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire

Kickoff time: 7 p.m. CT

Where: Stade Saputo; Montreal, Quebec.

Broadcast: My50 Chicago

NOTE: Due to conflicts with the Cubs' and Blackhawks' schedule, the match will be shown on My50 Chicago with the regular broadcast tandem of Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan. MLS Live blackout will also be lifted to ensure fans will have access to watch.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

city-trophy-epl.jpg
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

katai.jpg
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.