David Accam has big night, Fire advance to U.S. Open Cup semifinal

David Accam has big night, Fire advance to U.S. Open Cup semifinal

As has been the case twice already this season, David Accam took a starring role in a U.S. Open Cup match for the Chicago Fire.

Accam had a goal and an assist in the Fire’s 3-0 win against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in an Open Cup quarterfinal at Toyota Park on Wednesday. Accam entered the match having scored all three of the Fire’s goals in cup games this season.

It didn’t take long for Accam to make his mark, earning and then converting a penalty kick not even five minutes into the match. Arturo Alvarez found him in space on the left wing and Accam was able to overcome a heavy touch in the box to get another touch before onrushing goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, who then tripped Accam.

"I had a lot of space," Accam said. "For us we tried to utilize the space they left behind and it paid off.”

After scoring the opener, Accam played provider with a highlight-reel caliber run through the Strikers’ defense. Accam won the ball at the halfway line and put the moves on Ft. Lauderdale defender Gale Agbossoumonde, making him fall over in the box. Accam then rounded Restrepo and sent a centering ball across the face of the goal for Michael de Leeuw to tap in.

“I just made a quick decision," de Leeuw said of his goal. "I was first searching for the first ball, but David dribbled through the left side and you know you can be there for the rebound. The ball fell for my feet.

"It’s good to score the second goal. It’s important and in the end the third goal was also important because we knew also it’s done. If it’s 2-nil and they score then you know it can be difficult, but at the end we played a good game.”

Accam played a factor in the third goal as well. Nick LaBrocca headed an Accam corner on target and Khaly Thiam scored on the rebound to make it 3-0 in the 51st minute.

"(The third goal) was actually the trigger for us to start with the Plan B, which was to rest guys and prepare for the next game,” coach Veljko Paunovic said.

De Leeuw was subbed off shortly after the third goal and Accam exited the match in the 72nd minute. The Fire's first sub came in the first half when Razvan Cocis picked up an injury that Paunovic described as a "very strong contusion" in his right calf.

The three-goal margin was the Fire’s first win by more than a goal this season. It was also only the second time the Fire have had a lead of more than a goal all season. The Fire led 2-0 against Columbus in the last round of the U.S. Open Cup before winning 2-1.

“I think today, especially in the second half, we had a great opportunity to rehearse how to play, how to control the game," Paunovic said. "After the third goal they dropped a little bit more so it was a great opportunity for us to learn how to manage these kind of games where you have the possession, where you have to build your play, be patient and be precise with the ball.

"First time for me this year where we were comfortable and we didn’t suffer that much, but that’s just one small step."

After Ft. Lauderdale held a slim 51-49 percent edge in possession at halftime, the Fire finished the match with 55 percent of the possession.

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It is the Fire’s fourth straight semifinal appearance in the Open Cup and fifth in the past six years. The semi will take place Aug. 9 against the New England Revolution, which beat the Philadelphia Union in penalty kicks in another quarterfinal. The Revolution are also the Fire's opponent in MLS play on Saturday.

“Semifinals, it’s not a small thing," Paunovic said.

The draw to determine the host of the semifinal will take place at 10 a.m. Central on Thursday.

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.