Fire

Fire await Gilberto's arrival, admit more dealings in the works

gilberto07282015.png

Fire await Gilberto's arrival, admit more dealings in the works

The Chicago Fire signed Chelsea legend Didier Drogba. Well, for the briefest of moments, that is.

Monday’s confirmation -- spotlighting negotiations between the Fire and the Ivorian’s camp that reached a climax with a sign-and-trade deal agreed upon with the Montreal Impact – precipitated Toronto FC forward Gilberto Oliveira Souza Júnior’s move to Chicago as a designated player.

With Drogba ultimately preferring Montreal to Chicago in favor of accommodating his family to the francophone culture, the Fire relinquished the player’s discovery rights to Montreal, which reportedly doled out upward of $250,000 in general and targeted allocation money to the Chicago club. That sum, in turn, enabled the Fire to use the Targeted Allocation Money mechanism to buy down the cap hit of Kennedy Igboananike, who, according to the MLS Players Union, was set to earn a guaranteed compensation of $901,666.67 in 2015.

[RELATED: Fire land Brazilian forward Gilberto from Toronto FC]

"We paid a big fee for David [Accam], and we’ve put our future into him,” head coach Frank Yallop said Monday via teleconference. “It’s picking and choosing. Brian [Technical Director Brian Bliss] works with the league pretty closely and we all talk about it. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason behind it, it’s just the best way of doing it for us.”

Gilberto, whose guaranteed compensation in 2014 was $1,205,000.00, appeared on Yallop’s radar within the last three to four weeks, and was back on Toronto’s books and subsequently placed on waivers after his loan spell with Brazilian outfit Vasco de Gama was terminated. As a result, the club “retained a substantial portion of our initial investment on a future sale,” according to TFC General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko.

The 27-year-old’s sudden return left Toronto at a crossroads, however, having all three of their designated player slots already filled with Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. The Canadian side was no longer roster compliant under Major League Soccer’s rules, opening the door for the Fire, who were positioned first in the waiver draft order, to claim him.

[SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey]

“We’ve just been trying to recognize what we wanted to do in the window, and I think he’s a quality player,” Yallop added. “He had a good end to his season with Toronto. I’ve always liked the way he played, and it’s a great opportunity for us to acquire him. ... From watching him and doing our homework, we made that decision and it was a good one.”

For now, the Fire await the receipt of his P-1 visa. If all goes according to plan, Yallop indicated Gilberto could join the team at the beginning of next week, and render himself available for the trip to Portland to face the Timbers on Aug. 7. With the close of the summer transfer window on Aug. 6, Yallop could also be gearing up to make further use of the allocation funds to splash out on a defender.

“We’re working on some stuff as we speak; obviously the window is coming to a close in 10 days,” Yallop said. “I’ve said it all along, we’ve been pretty poor in both boxes, scoring and keeping them out, so we’re trying to get some help at the back. Some help in that department would be good; we’re trying to do that. It’s just getting the all-clear and getting the players to sign. Big thing for me is making sure that it’s the right thing for the club moving forward.”

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.