Fire

Fire can't hold onto halftime lead in draw with LA

Fire can't hold onto halftime lead in draw with LA

The Fire had a chance to continue the momentum from Saturday’s win at Montreal, but couldn’t put the finishing touches on a second-straight win.

Instead, the Fire settled for a 2-2 draw at home against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday after the Fire led at halftime.

After a dull first quarter of the match, the game featured four goals, two more called back for offside, a number of close chances and wide open play.

LA’s U.S. national teamer Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 31st minute and the floodgates opened soon after. Zardes pounced on a loose ball in the box with a hard and low shot.

Just three minutes later the Fire (5-11-8, 23 points) equalized with a goal that also required a couple deflections to wind up at the feet of an open shooter. Michael de Leeuw put a header on target and LA goalkeeper Clement Diop came up with the initial save. However, the save bounced off defender A.J. DeLaGarza’s face and landed right to Arturo Alvarez, who scored with a half volley.

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The Fire completed the turnaround when Luis Solignac was tripped in the box for a penalty kick, which David Accam converted to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the 39th minute.

"I think the way we came back and how fast we did that, I think that’s something that is very positive for us," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Against a great team, a big team, it even counts more. I think also as we said during this year we were working hard to get to this moment where we can actually feel as a real team, a team that can win (against) anyone.”

Even if the Galaxy (9-4-12, 39 points) are arguably the deepest team in the league, LA didn't bring a full strength lineup to Toyota Park. Giovani Dos Santos didn't start, but did eventually score the tying goal, Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard weren't even included on the list of substitutes in the matchday lineup and Nigel De Jong was available as a substitute but didn’t play.

Dos Santos connected with another sub, Alan Gordon, for that tying goal in the 69th minute. Gordon centered a ball from the right to Giovany Dos Santos, who scored with his first touch.

"I’m feeling very sorry for our guys, very disappointed that we couldn’t get more from this game," Paunovic said. "I think the performance was fantastic. I think we finally feel we are there, where we wanted to be during all this year."

Earlier in the second half, Chicago had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead when David Accam chased down a long ball and dribbled around LA goalkeeper Clement Diop. Diop came way off his line, but with an open goal in front of him Accam dribbled into the box and passed to Luis Solignac. Solignac missed the shot with two defenders, but still no goalkeeper in his way.

The Fire were unable to put the game away, but did hold an 8-3 edge in shots on target and the Galaxy's only shot on target in the second half was the goal. The Fire also had 51 percent of the possession, which is the third time this season the Fire had most of the possession.

"I know everyone has talked about the whole not winning away and we were able to do it in Montreal," Alvarez said. "It was a great performance overall from everyone so that game alone just kind of gave everyone that boost that we needed. I think it showed in this game as well. Unfortunately it didn’t go the way we wanted to. Then again that’s LA for you, they always find a way to come back into games and they did this time.”

The Fire's draw coupled with Columbus' loss to Philadelphia means the Fire are now tied with the Crew in the Eastern Conference, but remain six points out of the playoffs. The Fire next play Saturday at D.C. United.

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.