Fire

Brad Guzan on MLS: The league has grown by leaps and bounds

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Brad Guzan on MLS: The league has grown by leaps and bounds

Since joining Aston Villa in 2008, Brad Guzan's transition from being a regular for Chivas USA in MLS to being taken under fellow compatriot Brad Friedel's wing in his first three years yielded few first team appearances in Birmingham.

When Friedel left the West Midlands for North London, however, the doors opened for Guzan. Having played second fiddle to Shay Given during the 2011-12 season, the 30-year-old still cobbled together seven appearances. From there, Guzan has established himself as Villa's No. 1, featuring in all but two league matches between 2012 and 2014.

Another praiseworthy enterprise throughout the 2014-2015 Barclays Premier League campaign eventually saw the American lose his place as Tim Sherwood's first-choice goalkeeper, however, as Given deputized for the remaining four matches along with a start in the FA Cup final loss to Arsenal on May 30.

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Despite some of the uncertainty surrounding his role for the Villans, Guzan - born in Evergreen Park and raised in Homer Glen - is turning his attention to international duty with the U.S. national team. Under the guidance of veteran Tim Howard - amid a one-year sabbatical - Guzan, a one-time central midfielder at Providence Catholic High School, is now primed to claim the No. 1 jersey as Jurgen Klinsmann's side begins its CONCACAF Gold Cup defense in July. 

"It's definitely going to be different, but I'm excited for the challenge," he said. "Being in from the start, it's going to be an exciting tournament and an exciting month for us. Hopefully we finish it with a championship."

Prior to the Men in Red's 1-0 defeat to Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United, Guzan dropped by the Pregame Live set on CSN to chat with Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan about all things soccer. A former member of the Chicago Fire Reserves, Guzan reflected on his time as an up-and-comer, lauding Major League Soccer's commitment to developing talent and burgeoning into a well-respected league.

[MORE: Five things from Fire vs. D.C.: One chance is all it takes]

"It's huge," he added. "Giving opportunities to kids to come through the ranks, but then have the opportunities with the first team is such a huge part of soccer, not only with MLS, but with the growing of the sport as well.   

"The league has grown by leaps and bounds. The view of the league - from players, coaches and fans (in Europe) - is that it's getting bigger; it's getting better, not just because the David Beckhams of the world that came here and made a name for themselves. It's the standard of the league that's gone up, and it's starting to interest so many players over there."

After forgoing the rest of his college years at the University of South Carolina, Guzan went on to sign a Generation Adidas contract with MLS, and was subsequently picked by the now defunct Chivas USA in the 2005 SuperDraft. Ten years later, and with the league's popularity swelling, Guzan hasn't yet ruled out a return stateside.

"I've always said I want to finish my career playing in MLS," he said. "From the day I left to where it is now, it's something that I want to come back to. When that day is, I don't know. But at the moment, I'm enjoying my soccer over in England." 

Check out what else Guzan had to say in the video above.

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.