Fire alarmed by defeat in USOC semifinal: 'We were outplayed'


Fire alarmed by defeat in USOC semifinal: 'We were outplayed'

A second-half goal from Sébastien Le Toux - backed by a commanding, collective display - was enough to see the Philadelphia Union past the Fire, 1-0, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal at PPL Park Wednesday night, effectively eliminating the Men in Red from the 102nd edition of the tournament.  

"It was very disappointing," Fire head coach Frank Yallop said. "Aside from a couple spells in the first half and spaced out through the game, we were outplayed tonight; which is alarming. We needed to get up for the game. Our training has been good and we talked about [winning this game]. You've got to go out and perform and give everything you have, and it didn't seem like we did that. To put in a performance like that in a semifinal is not good."

After experiencing a 1-0 loss at the Portland Timbers in MLS regular season play last Friday, Yallop opted to make one change, giving Gilberto - filling in for Jason Johnson - his first start since signing on as the club's third Designated Player during the summer transfer window. The Brazilian - deemed fit and in good condition prior to kickoff - was forced off in the 21st minute, however, with what was confirmed as a right thigh contusion, a low blow as the Fire lacked a substantial attacking dimension on their way toward logging their 20th road loss in all competitions dating back to July 2014.  

A somewhat frantic start to the match saw both sides feel each other out before establishing any sort of concrete possession, with the Union thoroughly dominating first half proceedings. Jim Curtin's side posted seven shots on goal and 16 crosses, forcing a back four comprised of Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz and Joevin Jones to string 22 clearances together in a predominantly defensive outing. 

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Midfielder Cristián Maidana was at the heart of several of the host's moves, forcing an early, but comfortable save from Sean Johnson in the eighth minute with a left-footed curler. 

The Argentine's presence was felt again, cutting inside on a static David Accam and firing a low shot away, which was tipped off the post by Johnson and spit out to C.J. Sapong, whose follow-up hit the outside of the net in the 24th minute. Johnson up to the task again two minutes later, this time denying Brian Carroll as the Fire continued to live dangerously and invite pressure.

In the 37th minute, Le Toux’s sliding cross made its way to Sapong, whose complicated attempt at a backheel flick to beat Johnson inside the six-yard box escaped him. On the stroke of halftime, the visitors aimed to hit back through Accam, who sped past Union defender Richie Marquez and burst through on goal, drawing a kick save from 'keeper John McCarthy at the near post to close out a largely forgettable first half for the Fire.

[RELATED: Fire 'primed and ready' for 'massive' USOC semifinal vs. Union]

The second 45 saw Yallop's men show a little more verve, matching the Union in possession stats, but ultimately not doing enough to ruffle the hosts as the Union - after whittling away at the Fire back line - found their match-winner in the 74th minute.

After sidestepping a few defenders, Le Toux collected a loose ball at the top of the 18 and planted a left-footed strike off the right post and in to seal the Union's berth to the final hurdle: the club's second consecutive appearance in the Open Cup final.

While the Men in Red look to overcome Wednesday night's defeat, it's all to play for in regular season action as both sides butt heads at PPL Park Sunday night.

"Our guys are devastated with the result, but we need to get ourselves ready for Sunday," Yallop added. "Sunday's going to come quickly so we need to get ready for that and pick the bones out of this one, because it wasn't good." 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster (Mike Magee, 77'), David Accam (Jason Johnson, 58'); Shaun Maloney; Gilberto (Kennedy Igboananike, 21')

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.