Fire come up short in comeback bid against Toronto

Fire come up short in comeback bid against Toronto

David Accam has been a difference maker all season for the Chicago Fire and that continued Saturday.

The problem was Accam didn't start the match and by the time he entered the match the Fire trailed by two goals. Toronto came to Toyota Park and left with a 2-1 victory.

Accam returned this week after playing two games for Ghana, most recently a substitute appearance in Russia on Tuesday. Coach Veljko Paunovic inserted Accam in the 56th minute and he made an immediate impact.

Accam dribbled into the box and found John Goossens just two minutes after subbing on. After a deflection, Michael de Leeuw, ever the opportunist, was there to head in the loose ball.

Not starting a player fresh off international duty has been mostly common practice for Paunovic this season so it wasn't necessarily a surprise or controversial decision. Still, when asked if starting Accam would have made a difference in the result, Paunovic admitted it "probably would have."

"But that’s something we can’t go back and regret because the decision was common," Paunovic said. "We spoke before the game. David said that after the break with the national team and the long travel, he didn’t feel like starting and that’s it. We want our guys to participate in the decision."

Accam said he is always ready, but did not complain about coming off the bench.

“I feel great and for me I was happy to go on the pitch to help the team, but it wasn’t enough," Accam said. "For me personally I feel really good.”

Paunovic went with the same starting lineup as in the win against Philadelphia last week. Accam and David Arshakyan both came back from international duty as subs in the second half. It was Arshakyan’s home debut.

Jozy Altidore stayed hot with his sixth goal in eight games to give Toronto (13-8-7, 46 points) the lead. Fire forward Luis Solignac drew a reaction from the home crowd when he danced around the ball to get free in Toronto’s half, but he immediately followed that up with a bad pass that allowed Toronto to counter. TFC’s Justin Morrow later centered a ball to Altidore, who tucked it away for the opening goal in the 33rd minute.

Toronto doubled the lead in the second half with one Sean Johnson will want to forget. The Fire goalkeeper had no pressure on him and had the ball in his hands, but his throw went right to Altidore, who teed up Jonathan Osorio for the finish into the open net.

The Fire (6-13-8, 26 points) pressed for the equalizer, but were not able to score again against the league’s second stingiest defense. The Fire have 57 percent possession, a season-high, and had nine shots, three on target, in the second half.

“It’s of course a downer because I think the first half we played very well," de Leeuw said. "We created chances. At the end we did this to ourselves."

Toronto took the lead in the Eastern Conference while the Fire missed out on three much-needed points. The Fire had a 12-match unbeaten streak at home between MLS play and the U.S. Open Cup.

The Fire finish the three-game homestand Friday against D.C. United.

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.