Dempsey's third Gold Cup goal helps U.S. clinch quarterfinal berth


Dempsey's third Gold Cup goal helps U.S. clinch quarterfinal berth

The United States eeked out another nervy and narrow victory in CONCACAF Gold Cup play, topping Haiti, 1-0, behind a Clint Dempsey goal in the 47th minute in front of 46,720 at Gillette Stadium Friday night.

The win guarantees the top spot in Group A for the Americans, who stand on six points ahead of both Panama and Honduras.

The U.S. were outplayed for large parts of the first half, having to cope with wholesale changes to the side that narrowly carved out a 2-1 win over Honduras three days earlier.

An unfamiliar back four comprised of - from left to right - Greg Garza, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez and Brad Evans looked like it’s never played together before. It hadn't, and Jurgen Klinsmann's side opened itself up to Haiti, squandering possession in the midfield, fortunate not to be behind in several instances.

[RELATED: USMNT in pursuit of second Gold Cup victory, quarterfinal berth]

Haiti's best chance came 10 minutes in, when Mix Diskerud was dispossessed by James Marcelin, with the New York City FC midfielder taking the Haitian midfielder down from behind. The ensuing free kick 25 yards from goal from Mechack Jerome skimmed off the crossbar, a close call for 'keeper Brad Guzan and a golden chance as it was just the beginning of the underdogs' positive start.

The game suddenly became stretched, as Michael Bradley strode through the middle of the pitch in the 34th minute, hoping to find a breakthrough for the U.S. His run eventually found Jozy Altidore down the left flank, whose shot ricocheted off a mob of defenders and fell to the foot of Aron Johansson, who finished past Johnny Placide, but was whistled back for a dubious offside decision.

The teams entered the halftime break with a noticeable disparity, as the U.S. struggled to manage a disorganized midfield and attack, while Haiti came out of the gates flying: running faster, tackling harder, passing better, unlucky not to have found a goal in the process.

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Two minutes into the second half, Gyasi Zardes - a halftime substitute for Altidore - suddenly got free in the box, picked out Dempsey, whose first-time finish gave the U.S. a relieved advantage.

Following the goal, Guerrier missed another opportunity just past the hour mark, climbing high above Evans to meet a delivery from open play, but he sent a header just wide of the frame to the relief of Guzan. Haiti continued to play to its strengths, using the counter attack to their advantage, but ultimately lacked the end product.

The U.S. travel to Kansas City, Kan. next for the third and final group stage match. Klinsmann's outfit will face 2013 Gold Cup runner-up Panama at Sporting Park at 7:30 p.m. CT.

United States Starting XI (subs):

Brad Guzan; Brad Evans, Omar Gonzalez, Tim Ream, Greg Garza (Fabian Johnson, 67'); Graham Zusi, Michael Bradley, Mix Diskerud; Clint Dempsey; Aron Johannsson (Kyle Beckerman, 82'), Jozy Altidore (Gyasi Zardes, 46').

Haiti Starting XI (subs): 

Johnny Placide; Mechack Jerome, Kim Jaggy, Frantz Bertin, Reginal Goreux (Sony Norde, 82'), Kevin Lafrance (Sebastian Thuriere, 70'); Wilde-Donald Guerrier, James Marcelin, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Jean Eudes Maurice (Jeff Louis, 67'); Duckens Nazon.

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.