Calistri looks to add depth to Fire's forward line


Calistri looks to add depth to Fire's forward line

As player acquisitions trickle in for the Chicago Fire, forward is a position that has been left mostly untouched and untalked about.

Returning as strikers are Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike. David Accam will probably line up as a striker on occasion, but will also play out wide. Despite the relatively low number of forwards, general manager Nelson Rodriguez has said nothing of acquiring another forward, instead focusing on different positions.

Perhaps if the team typically lines up in a 4-2-3-1, which coach Veljko Paunovic called the team’s starting formation for now, a larger number of forwards won’t be as necessary. Either way, the limited number of forwards makes it appear rookie homegrown player Joey Calistri is in line to see some playing time as injuries, suspensions and national team absences inevitably occur throughout the season.

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Since signing his homegrown contract with the Fire in December, Calistri had spent time training at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch. With the start of the preseason last week, Calistri got his first taste of training under Paunovic.

“He’s given not only me but a lot of the guys that play attacking positions a lot of advice about, especially, where to position yourself on the field when we have the ball and how everybody rotates,” Calistri said. “I think I’ve learned a lot already in the first week and a lot more coming in the future.”

Calistri scored a goal in the small field scrimmage that ended training on Friday. That should serve as a confidence boost, but after admitting to nerves on the first day, Calistri appears to be full of confidence.

“I think you have to have that mentality a little bit that you belong here,” Calistri said. “Obviously you have to be humble, but at the same time I think everybody here deserves to be here. I think if you play like you deserve to be here then it’ll show.”

[MORE: Fire head to Tampa after first week of training]

The 22-year-old holds a communications degree from Northwestern and worked in the Fire’s communications office last summer. He recently received some pub as one of the top homegrown players to watch in MLS this season from

“First of all, he’s a great kid,” Paunovic said. “Great soccer player. I think he is improving very well and he is working very hard. His attitude is great so we are very happy with him.”

Paunovic isn’t the only one Calistri will be learning from this season. The Fire’s three aforementioned attackers are all designated players, which makes Calistri the only unproven player at his position.

“They’re great personalities,” Calistri said of the likes of Gilberto and Accam. “I’m definitely going to be looking to learn from them, on and off the field, to learn what it’s like to be a professional at this level. I definitely think I can do that as the year goes on and that’s something that I’ll try to get better at as we go forward.”

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.