Fire believe play was better against Toronto, frustrated result wasn't

Fire believe play was better against Toronto, frustrated result wasn't

Early in the season the coaches and players talked about the Chicago Fire needing time to find some chemistry and figure out how to play with each other. The players, coaches and management all preached patience.

That didn’t happen after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Toronto. The players were mad to lose at home for the first time since April 16.

The positive spin remained. They believed the team played well, but there were no excuses about a team that’s still building like there was in March in April.

“I think we did well,” forward Michael de Leeuw said. “If we played this every week we’re going to win, but sometimes you lose when you play well and a game like that was today. We played well, we created chances, but at the end we have nothing.”

The team had built up confidence after snapping the road winless streak less than a month ago and last week producing a resounding 3-0 win against a likely playoff team in Philadelphia. This was not the Fire team that seemed moderately pleased with home draws earlier in the season just because they were showing progress. This is a team that expected a result, one that didn't come.

“I think the feeling of the team is pretty disappointed that we couldn’t get three points because I thought everybody felt like we played better,” midfielder Matt Polster said. “I thought we put a good performance, 90 minutes.”

Of course, results are all that matters ultimately and even in the Fire’s recent improved run the team is 2-2-2 in the past six matches. The playoffs are out of reach in any practical sense.

There are positive signs. The Fire do have an attack that can score now, with 13 goals in the past six matches.

Saturday was a night of decent play on the field, but nothing to show for it in the result. Is there progress in there somewhere?

“When we look back where we were at the start of the season and where we are now we can see that the team improved way, way, way better,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “Now we look like a team, we play like a team and we really compete. It was tough for us to lose this game and we wouldn’t even be happy if we would tie the game at the end. I think that’s the spirit. I think that’s how the locker room feels now. We wouldn’t be happy with a tie so I think we have not only optimistic group, but the group that wants to win.”

The 2016 Fire may be a finished product in the fact that no major personnel changes can occur with the MLS roster freeze date just days away on Sept. 15. Next year's team will have a more solid foundation to build upon in the offseason than the Fire had a year ago. Fire fans will be hoping it won't take as long to build a cohesive team focused on results in 2017.

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.