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Dempsey at the double: U.S. outlasts Honduras in Gold Cup opener

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Dempsey at the double: U.S. outlasts Honduras in Gold Cup opener

What began as a scintillating foray from Honduras and an enthralling finish fizzled out via Clint Dempsey's brace, which gave the U.S. men's national team a marginal 2-1 victory in their CONCACAF Gold Cup Group A opener Tuesday night in Frisco, Texas. 

Jorge Luis Pinto, who came within a whisker of leading Costa Rica to the quarterfinals of last year's World Cup, discharged his energetic pressing style with Honduras from the onset.

His side nearly took an early lead with a sequence that kickstarted a frenetic opening 45 minutes. Forward Anthony Lozano burst through the U.S. back line, left multiple defenders in his wake and fired a low shot at Brad Guzan, who was there to meet it and palm away to spare the Americans' blushes. 

Despite being somewhat overcome by the occasion in the early going, Jurgen Klinsmann's side found a revitalizing breakthrough five minutes shy of the half-hour mark. A well-worked corner kick, orchestrated by DeAndre Yedlin and Michael Bradley, made its way across the box. The captain's cross pinged around before Jozy Altidore's shot at 'keeper Donis Escober popped up for Dempsey to snap his header home from close range and give the Americans a 1-0 lead. 

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Minutes later, Yedlin squandered an opportunity to provide the U.S. with a much-needed cushion. Fabian Johnson sliced through an open channel - running from his left back position - and slipped the Tottenham defender through on goal, only to be denied by Escober, who closed down the angle well. 

In the second half, the sloppy play continued to rear its head before Dempsey provided what would prove to be the match-winner. A looping and inviting free-kick delivery from Bradley set up Dempsey - ghosting through to the back post - and exposed glaring deficiencies in the Honduran defense, as the Seattle Sounders forward cashed in on poor marking to notch his second goal of the game, giving the U.S. some breathing room and a firmer stronghold on the match. 

Carlos Discua cut the lead in half in the 70th minute, however. The midfielder took a good touch to skip past Ventura Alvarado and expertly sent a shot over Guzan's left shoulder to pull the Hondurans back within one, setting up a nervy final 20 minutes.

[RELATED: USMNT opens CONCACAF Gold Cup play vs. Honduras]

With a quarter of an hour remaining, Bradley's attempt at goal from a direct free kick nearly caught Escober off guard, but the 'keeper was alert enough to prevent the captain from extending the lead even further.

It didn't always look pretty, but a gritty performance and perseverance on display against a well-drilled Honduran outfit will undoubtedly serve Klinsmann's delegation well as it continues Group A action on Friday. Panama and Honduras square off before a U.S.-Haiti matchup rounds off a doubleheader in Foxborough, Mass.

United States Starting XI (subs):

Brad Guzan; Fabian Johnson, John Brooks, Ventura Alvarado, Timothy Chandler (Brad Evans, 63'); Kyle Beckerman, Gyasi Zardes (Graham Zusi, 87'), Michael Bradley (C), DeAndre Yedlin; Jozy Altidore (Chris Wondolowski, 59'), Clint Dempsey.

Honduras Starting XI (subs):

Donis Escober; Wilmer Crisanto, Maynor Figueroa (C), Johnny Palacios, Henry Figueroa (Eddie Hernandez, 75'), Brayan Beckeles; Mario Martínez (Carlos Discua, 69'), Bryan Acosta, Alfredo Mejía, Andy Najar (Romell Quioto, 62'); Antony Lozano.

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.