Fire

Fire adjust to demands of altered approach vs. FC Dallas

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Fire adjust to demands of altered approach vs. FC Dallas

A new beginning or another false start?

With their second win over a Western Conference opponent in 22 days, the Fire roused a crowd of 14,209 Sunday night with a 2-0 victory over an FC Dallas outfit that saw the potential of the visitors' sixth consecutive league triumph – a club-record winning streak – snapped by a committed, loyal and collective effort from the Men in Red.

From front to back, head coach Frank Yallop’s starting lineup cooperated with a ‘different’ tactical approach. The positional flexibility and matureness from Designated Players David Accam and Shaun Maloney – who provided both goals on the night – shed light on a group of players that, little by little, is making strides toward grasping the philosophy and style of play.

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“The big thing is, you saw a team last night that wasn’t fighting against what we were trying to do,” Yallop told reporters Monday via teleconference. “It’s a team game; it’s not an individual game. If we ask Shaun to do a little bit more extra work, he was fine with it. Does he want to play a different position to be a bit more attacking? Maybe, but in the end, hard work, endeavor and fight won that game last night. And, tactically, catching them like we did worked.”

Despite being thoroughly out possessed and out passed, the Fire’s unrelenting drive to refuse to sit back and conversely push on for another goal paid dividends. Refreshed by an eight-day break and the return of Jeff Larentowicz to the back line, the Fire refused to sit on their propitious 1-0 lead, bucking the trend of last week’s disappointing 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution.

After keeping a red-hot Dallas and the likes of Mauro Díaz, Fabián Castillo, Michael Barrios and David Texeira at bay, the question lingers as to whether this performance can be reproduced in four days time. While the tactics on display against Óscar Pareja’s side – favoring the counterattack as opposed to possession – were specific to the Dallas game, Friday night’s trip to face the Portland Timbers will truly show if the Men in Red can muster that same endeavor and grit to string consecutive wins together in regular season play for the first time since the three-match winning streak experienced from late March to mid April. 

[RELATED: Fire await Gilberto's arrival, admit more dealings in the works]

“Dallas are a side that likes to manipulate the ball on the edge of the box, and we wanted to counterattack them and try to catch them, which we did,” Yallop added. “Having David in that role was good, it frees him up to better explode into those areas and do well.

“Shaun did a great job defensively behind on that left side to support David. We may play David in that spot again if we feel a team is going to be pushing and we can catch them on the counter.”

The trip to the Pacific Northwest could see Ty Harden and newly acquired Designated Player Gilberto enter the fold. 

After dealing with niggling hamstring issues upon signing with the team, Harden will be available for the trip. Gilberto, meanwhile, is expected to get his visa soon to hopefully be able to join the Fire in Portland on Friday, which would present another dilemma for Yallop in team selection should the Brazilian's fitness be up to snuff. Lovel Palmer, who left Sunday's game in the 68th minute with a sore knee, is expected to be a feature in the squad. Mike Magee is a risk, however, as the 2013 MLS MVP did not train on Monday.

NOTE: Eric Gehrig and Matt Polster were named to the MLS Team of the Week for Week 22, the league announced Monday. Sean Johnson was named to the bench. 

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.