Bye week allows Bliss to fine-tune Fire, observe trialists


Bye week allows Bliss to fine-tune Fire, observe trialists

After securing their first win since Aug. 26 last weekend, the Fire were back on the training field for four straight days and closed out the week with a competitive, full-field scrimmage on Friday.

Between their result against the New England Revolution and final away fixture of the season against D.C. United, the Men in Red will experience a 15-day break in action, the longest since a 20-day interval in mid-April.

The Fire will take Saturday and Sunday off and take advantage of the bye week before regrouping to prepare for a trip to the nation's capital on Oct. 18 (1 p.m. CT; CSN/CSN+).

Some notes from training:

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Trialists converge

Interim coach Brian Bliss invited five players from the USL ranks to join the team in training: Romeo Filipović (Arizona United), Jamiel Hardware (Saint Louis FC), Parker Maher (Saint Louis FC), James Musa (Saint Louis FC) and Jason Plumhoff (Harrisburg City Islanders).

"Knowing in advance that you're going to lose guys [to the international break] and knowing we had the [bye week], it was an easy solution to get these guys in this week and keep the numbers up," Bliss said.   

Five Fire players in action during international break

David Accam (Ghana), Daneil Cyrus and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), Collin Fernandez (U.S. U-20s) and Matt Polster (United States Under-23s) are all with their respective national teams, and will remain with them until the end of the current international window (Oct. 13).

- Accam is in Washington, D.C. as the Black Stars ready themselves for their international friendly against Canada at RFK Stadium on Oct. 13.

- Cyrus and Jones both featured for head coach Stephen Hart's side in a gritty 2-1 victory over Panama on Oct. 8. Cyrus was a second-half substitute and played 35 minutes, while Jones started and came off at the 77-minute mark. The Soca Warriors return to Port of Spain, Trinidad to face Nicaragua at Hasely Crawford Stadium on Oct. 13.

- Fernandez earned a late call-up to the U.S. U-20s prior to the New England match. Fernandez, along with Fire Academy standout Cameron Lindley, were summoned by head coach Tab Ramos to take part in the Four Nations Tournament. Ramos' outfit was handily dealt an 8-1 loss at the hands of the host nation in Stuttgart on Oct. 6. The U-20s face Scotland on Oct. 9 and wrap up the event with a match against Mexico on Oct. 12.

- Polster helped Andi Herzog's group record three wins in group play and secure a spot in the Olympic qualifying tournament semifinal against Honduras (2 p.m. CT; Telemundo) at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The Fire rookie started and featured the full 90 minutes at right back in the opening 3-1 win over Canada on Oct. 1, and at midfield in the comfortable 4-0 victory over Panama on Oct. 6. The 22-year-old also started and played 60 minutes against Cuba, and tallyed an assist in the U.S.'s 6-1 win on Oct. 3.

[RELATED: Doody hopes to take experience gained from USL to MLS, Fire

Injury update

Following a convincing 3-1 victory over the Revolution, Bliss confirmed to reporters that midfielder Razvan Cocis and forward Gilberto took knocks to the ankle and the "top of the foot," respectively. Both were involved in full training throughout the week.

Adaílton (core muscle repair surgery), Ty Harden (right adductor strain) and Sean Johnson (left shoulder labral tear) all continued to do work off to the side. Adaílton engaged in light jogging around the field separate from Harden and Johnson, who progressed to some sprint work along the sideline. Eric Gehrig (navicular stress fracture) - on crutches - watched on from afar.

NOTE: Harden, Mike Magee and Matt Watson will be the three out-of-contract players when the regular season ends on Oct. 25, a club spokesman confirmed.   

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.