Fire

Fire continue road trip at improved Seattle on CSN

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Fire continue road trip at improved Seattle on CSN

One team is playing as well as it has all season and is closing in on a playoff spot. The other team is facing the possibility of elimination by the end of the night.

A hot Seattle Sounders team hosts the struggling Chicago Fire on Wednesday on CSN. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.

Seattle (11-13-5, 38 points) is 5-1-2 in its past eight matches. The Sounders have been boosted by the arrival of Argentine playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and likely Rookie of the Year winner Jordan Morris has been red-hot. Lodeiro has three goals and eight assists in nine matches. Morris is up to 12 goals on the season after scoring four in the past four games.

“Of course we are very, very careful with their transition with guys like Morris up in front,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “They can be very dangerous in attack.”

[SHOP: Pick up a Fire home jersey here]

The Fire played at New York City FC on Friday. The team returned to Chicago before making the trip to the Pacific Northwest. All that travel in a short period of time plus facing a surging team in front of a big crowd at CenturyLink Field is not a good recipe for success for the Fire.

While the Sounders are closing in on the playoffs — they sit three points back of sixth-place Portland but have two games in hand — the Fire (6-14-9, 27 points) are trying to get out of last place. The Fire are five points below the closest teams in the standings, Columbus and Houston. If Montreal beats San Jose and D.C. defeats Columbus, both games that will finish before kickoff Wednesday in Seattle, the Fire would need to get at least a tie to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.

Despite the long odds to make the playoffs, Paunovic says motivation is not a problem.

“That’s part of our job, keep them motivated and work on that,” Paunovic said. “So far because of their commitment, I think that was easier to do. We of course have to continue doing that. The team is already addressed on that.

“We have the responsibility for ourselves. We have the responsibility for our profession and we have a responsibility for our supporters.”

The Fire arrived in Seattle without goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who is out for the second straight game with a toe injury. Lampson hasn’t started in MLS play since Aug. 6. The only other injury listed by the club is John Goossens, who has missed the past two matches with a back injury. Goossens is questionable.

The big news out of Seattle is that Clint Dempsey’s irregular heartbeat, which has kept him out of the past five matches, has ended his 2016 season early. Dempsey’s loss is massive, but Seattle still has plenty of talent for the Fire to worry about.

“They like to keep the possession, especially in the opponent’s half,” Paunovic said of the Sounders. “They have very quality players in the final third. Since the coming of Lodeiro I think the team improved very well. They look more confident and of course they have much better results. Playing at home I think they have very good support and they feel more confident, but they are a team that is not unbeatable. They also had early in the season their issues and there are some weaknesses we can say that we detected and we are going to try to take advantage of.”

Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders

When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

TV: CSN

Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

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.