Busch, Nyarko take comfort in familiarity with Brian Bliss


Busch, Nyarko take comfort in familiarity with Brian Bliss

For younger players newly accustomed to the concept of roster turnover and coaching change, the adjustment is all part of understanding the business that is professional soccer. The same can be said for MLS veterans such as Jon Busch and Patrick Nyarko, who’ve been around long enough to teach themselves, and others, how to adapt.

Before beginning his second stint with the Chicago Fire, Busch made stops in San Jose and Columbus, where Brian Bliss plied his trade as the club’s first-ever technical director and assumed the role of interim head coach following Robert Warzycha’s departure in early September 2013.

Two years later, Bliss will be at the helm once again when the Fire march into Montreal to face the Impact on Wednesday, and Busch will take comfort in knowing the team has a capable personality to call on in the last month of the regular season.

[RELATED: Interim head coach Brian Bliss looks to bring stability to Fire]      

“Blissy is very detail oriented, very structured, he has a passion for the game, he wants to play, it’s going to be a bit more up tempo game with him, but he’s honest as well,” Busch said of Bliss’s candor. “Good or bad, he’s going to be very honest with every player and that’s something I like out of my coach. Whether you like what he tells you or not, as long as he’s honest with you, you can respect that. I think it’s going to be a good thing.”

Whether the full-time label is bestowed upon Bliss come the offseason is contingent on results over the course of the next five games, and General Manager Nelson Rodríguez. But familiarity never hurts, and, in the interim, the Fire should have enough to draw on.

“When [Frank] Klopas left and [Frank] Yallop came in, he had a different mentality and philosophy,” said Nyarko, who’s in his eighth season with the Men in Red. "With Brian and Logan [Pause], they’re really familiar. Brian is as experienced as it comes. … He knows what he wants. He had a meeting with us, he demanded what he is going to demand and everyone needs to be on board. Guys respect him enough. He knows all of the players because he brought in most of them. It’s not going to be as terrible of a transition, it’s just us players buckling up and doing what is needed to try to turn this into a positive.”

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Along with Bliss, Pause, who will still carry out day-to-day duties as vice president, steps in as the interim assistant, not too far removed from the game. The 34-year-old made the immediate transition to the front office and has assisted with the Academy - among other responsibilities - since retiring at the conclusion of the 2014 season, bringing a 12-year career to an end.      

“Logan is someone I looked up to. He’s been one of my mentors and role models since I came into the league,” Nyarko added. “He’s very good with young players, and that’s what the team needs; somebody to help the young players grow. As veterans, we take responsibility for that, too, but with Logan, he will never stop until everything that needs to be done is accomplished. It’s going to be hard because he’s going to demand a lot, but at the end of the day, he’ll get the best out of the guys.”

Check out more of what Busch had to say about the changes to the technical staff in the video above.

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.