Fire

Fire announce signing of Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw

Fire announce signing of Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw

The Fire have been desperate for some scoring help and added some on Tuesday, but it will have to wait until July.

The team announced the signing of Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw using Targeted Allocation Money, inking him to a three-year deal through 2018 with a club option for 2019.

de Leeuw's contract with Groningen does not expire until June 30 and he can't be officially transferred to the Fire until then. In the meantime he will train with the Fire.

He will not be available to play until MLS' secondary transfer window opens up on July 4. This means the first game he should be eligible to play will be on July 9 in Toronto, the Fire's 16th MLS game. The Fire play six more MLS games before de Leeuw will be eligible.

"Michael hungers to score goals and to win," Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez said in the announcement. "That mentality as well as his versatility to play several of the attacking roles will be valuable additions to our club."

Rodriguez teased two signings back in early April. The first one turned out to be Khaly Thiam, who debuted in Saturday's 2-0 loss in New England. de Leeuw is the other signing Rodriguez teased. Rodriguez, who will host a media roundtable on Friday to address the state of the club, also said he expects the Fire to be relatively quiet in the summer transfer window.

The 29-year-old de Leeuw spent the past four seasons with FC Groningen, appearing in 117 league matches and scoring 46 goals. Current Fire defender Johan Kappelhof joined the Fire from Groningen in February.

The Fire could certainly use the scoring boost, given they rank last in the league with eight goals in nine games.

"The conversations that I had with Nelson and (head coach Veljko Paunovic) were very good," de Leeuw said in the announcement. "What they told me about their desired style of play, what they expect from players and the way that they work all appealed to me. To be a team that adapts to other teams was good to hear. I spoke with Johan Kappelhof many times, and he had good things to say about the club and the city of Chicago, which all makes me excited to be joining the Fire."

The Fire had to ship $50,000 in General Allocation Money to the Philadelphia Union, who had de Leeuw's Discovery rights.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

city-trophy-epl.jpg
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

katai.jpg
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.