Fire

Fire begin ‘big stretch’ of home games tonight vs. Union on CSN+

Fire begin ‘big stretch’ of home games tonight vs. Union on CSN+

Coming off playing three games in eight days, with two road games in that mix, the Chicago Fire have a much more friendly schedule upcoming.

The Fire have three straight matches at home and no midweek matches that stretch the depth and fitness of the roster.

First up is a meeting on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union. The match will be televised on CSN+ (check channel locations here) with coverage beginning at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

“It’s a really big stretch for us,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “We obviously have these three games at home. It’s important for us to get back on track. It’s a big opportunity to come home and play in front of our fans and we’ve been good at home this year. It’s going to take an effort from everybody, every single player on the team to get back in the playoff race.”

A week after playing Philadelphia (11-9-7, 40 points), the Fire host Toronto FC. Six days after the Toronto match, D.C. United comes to Toyota Park on Sept. 16. All three teams are currently in playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Even if the Fire (5-12-8, 23 points) likely need to win all three to get back into the playoff race, it is a chance for the Fire to get some positive momentum back after the 6-2 loss to D.C. last weekend. The Fire went down a man in the first half due to a Khaly Thiam red card. Thiam will serve his red card suspension Saturday against the Union.

“For me it’s the same as a loss,” midfielder Razvan Cocis said of the lopsided score. “It was pretty tight until (the red card). It’s not too much time to think about. We have to learn from our mistakes, but we also have to keep going. Our next goal is the next game. I think most of the players learned a lot from that game and we just have to think about the next game.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire home jersey here]

Both the Fire and the Union will endure absences due to international play. David Accam (Ghana) and David Arshakyan (Armenia) will be missing for the Fire. Goalkeeper Andre Blake (Jamaica) and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya (USA) won’t be there for Philly. John McCarthy will start in goal for the Union in place of Blake. Injury-wise, Luis Solignac is the only Fire player listed on the injury report. He is questionable with ‘right hip pain.’

These two teams played twice already this season with the Fire winning 1-0 at Toyota Park back on April 2 and the Union winning a 4-3 affair at Talen Energy Stadium on June 22. Roland Alberg, who scored a hat trick against the Fire in the second meeting, hasn’t started in the past five matches.

“They were two close games so we analyze them,” Cocis said. “We know their players, we know their style and we just have to work on that.”

Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday (coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: CSN+ (channel finder)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

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.