Fire

Fire battle second-place New England in Foxborough

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Fire battle second-place New England in Foxborough

The last time the Chicago Fire bagged a victory at Gillette Stadium, a third-minute goal by Quincy Amarikwa - his sixth of the season - and Sean Johnson's 84th-minute save to deny Chris Tierney on a penalty kick secured all three points for the visitors in a 1-0 win on July 12, 2014. Since then, the Men in Red have yet to walk away victorious on their travels, a dry spell spanning 14 MLS regular season matches.

With two games in hand on their longtime Eastern Conference rival, the result will surely be etched in the minds of the nine current Men in Red who played their part as the Fire travel to Foxborough to face 2014 MLS Cup finalist New England Revolution. Saturday's regular-season meeting (6:30 p.m. CT on CSN) will mark the 50th all-time between the sides.  

While New England aims to regroup following a late 2-0 collapse against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park, Frank Yallop is hoping to keep his players on an even keel after throwing away a 2-1 lead last Saturday, falling 3-2 at the hands of Orlando City SC.

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"We were all shocked last week where I felt we should have won the game," said Yallop after training Thursday. "Two (losses) in a row, but every team is in the same boat in our league; no one's running away with it. 

"We've got a couple of games in hand on the teams ahead of us. We've just got to start to realize that we can win games; we've played well enough to win. It's pretty close, and I've liked what I've seen going forward. It's just the individual and collective things late in games that's really hurt us."

Three of the previous five matches have seen the ninth-placed Fire squander leads, dating back to late drama in the 2-2 draw versus New York City FC in the Bronx on May 15. The latest two-game stretch that's seen the Men in Red come up empty-handed involved shipping a combined six goals at D.C. United and at home to Orlando.

As David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike continue to hit form - accounting for five of the Men in Red's eight goals in the previous four matches - the materialization and potency of Yallop's strikeforce is reverberating through the league as MLS sides struggle to keep the Designated Players' pace in check. But with a fixture against Jay Heaps' outfit looming and the danger posed by Teal Bunbury, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Charlie Davies and Juan Agudelo, the second-year head coach is calling for more solidarity and coherence on the defensive front.    

[MORE FIRE: Accam, Jones called up to Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago]

"They have a lot of movement in their team; they don't really have static players, so we've got to stay in our good team shape," Yallop said. "If we could have put a couple of halves together in our away performances - D.C., New York and Columbus in the second half - we'd be fine. But we've got to put 90 minutes together and that's the hard part. It's similar to hockey: you play well in the first period, but it doesn't really matter. You've got to play well for three periods and it's the same with soccer: two halves.  

"We have to have good shape because they are a good side and they create chances. We've got to be disciplined, be in good shape and make sure we defend correctly as a unit, everybody from the forwards to the goalkeeper."

Without Accam (Ghana), Shaun Maloney (Scotland) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago) - all away on international duty - the defensive and attacking onus will rest on the shoulders of some new faces as the Fire seek to dissolve the Revolution's unbeaten record at home. Despite going winless in their last six matches, New England hasn't lost at Gillette Stadium since last July.

"There will be some guys that haven't played for a little bit playing (on Saturday)," Yallop added. "You've got to keep the majority of the team that's done well for you. In performances, you don't change everybody because we've conceded a couple of goals that have been - if you look at the goals we have conceded over the last four or five games - not just because of one guy. It's been a combination of things.

"We've just got to keep going, stay positive, and turn it around. We're still right there in the hunt. It's a big game on Saturday and we're looking forward to it."        

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.