Fire

Fire draft day wrap: Jones, No. 1 pick traded for 3 rookies, allocation money

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Fire draft day wrap: Jones, No. 1 pick traded for 3 rookies, allocation money

The Chicago Fire were one of the most active teams on draft day, trading more than just the No. 1 overall pick.

The Fire made three trades during the MLS SuperDraft and wound up dealing away left back Joevin Jones, the top pick in the draft and the top spot in the player allocation order. In return the Fire ended up with allocation money from two different teams and three draft picks: Stanford left back Brandon Vincent (No. 4 pick), North Carolina center back Jonathan Campbell (No. 12) and North Florida midfielder Alex Morrell (No. 22).

Here’s a breakdown of the three trades:

Fire trade No. 1 pick Jack Harrison to New York City FC for the No. 4 pick and allocation money.

The Fire kicked off the day in seemingly normal fashion by selecting Wake Forest winger Jack Harrison No. 1. He stepped up to the podium in a Fire scarf while on national TV and spoke briefly. Just minutes later the traded was announced, but instead of naming Harrison, it was just a player to be named later. The Fire then selected Vincent at No. 4.

Vincent wasn’t in attendance in Baltimore because he was in camp with the U.S. Men’s National Team to train as part of the U-23 group ahead of the Olympic qualifying playoff in March. That camp includes new Fire teammates Sean Johnson and Matt Polster. Vincent already seemed to have a grasp of the club, mentioning honor and tradition and Section 8 without being prompted.

He spoke with general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic on his only day at the MLS Combine before being called into the national team camp.

“It seemed like we had a good back and forth and some good conversation that we both liked what each other were saying and had similar views going forward with the organization and how I could impact that,” Vincent said. “They had the mindset that they wanted to completely change the whole way the organization worked and change it to a winning culture. I was a part of that at Stanford and I want to do the same thing here.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Fire fans!]

Eventually it was revealed that Harrison was in fact headed to New York.

“The scenario that unfolded today was one that we foresaw, discussed and in essence tried to create alongside with NYCFC and we feel very, very good about it,” Rodriguez said. “We informed Jack Harrison and we informed his agent prior to the start of the draft that we saw a scenario where we would select Jack No. 1 and we might not retain him. In that instance we would move him only to NYCFC. We tried to be sensitive to a young man and his family.”

Fire trade Joevin Jones to Seattle for the No. 15 pick and allocation money.

While trading the top pick was not a surprise, this move was. Initially Jones wasn’t announced as part of the deal because the Fire wanted to contact Jones before announcing the trade. Soon after the draft Rodriguez confirmed the move, saying the team had been able to get in touch with Jones’ representation, but not the player himself yet.

While it is hard to evaluate the trade without knowing the amount of allocation money sent to the Fire, it does make sense that Jones was thought to be expendable after the Fire took Vincent, another left back.

“Joevin Jones is a player that was coveted by many teams around the league and over the course of the entire offseason there have been steady offers being made for his services,” Rodriguez said. “Through the combine and as we got closer to the draft those offers increased. It got to the point where the scenario that we thought could be viable. Securing Brandon Vincent would enable us to move Joevin’s services and in return get a draft pick that we felt we could convert into a player, which we did and again add more money to our allocation war chest. For us it was a natural flow of events, and part of things and part of scenarios that we had outlined prior to walking into the draft room today.”

Jones, 24, was one of three players on the Fire roster taking up an international slot. General manager Nelson Rodriguez had previously indicated that he expected the team’s eight slots to fill up this season, so that extra flexibility is another benefit of the trade for the Fire.

The Trinidad & Tobago international made 28 appearances, 26 of which were starts, in MLS play last season.

Fire trade the No. 15 pick, the No. 33 pick and the No. 1 spot in the player allocation order to Colorado for the No. 12 pick, the No. 22 pick and the No. 2 spot in the player allocation order.

This trade appears to be simply the Fire getting something out of nothing. The allocation order is only useful if you’re interested in the player that first becomes available. Colorado likely has a player in mind that the Fire may not have been interested in.

The Fire then drafted Campbell at No. 12 and Morrell at No. 22. Rodriguez asserted that he expects both players to compete for time and not be simply roster depth.

“We think Jonathan is a good player who could become a really good player,” Rodriguez said. “This is part of building a championship program when you can start to build succession planning. We believe that Jonathan gives us the opportunity to contribute right away, but at the same time learn from some of the players that we will bring in and learn from Pauno himself such that we’ll be very deep in that position for several years.”

Morrell is only 5-foot-7, but is known for his speed and athletic ability.

“Alex Morrell is a dynamite athlete and a very intelligent soccer player,” Rodriguez said. “He can play multiple positions. That versatility is very important to us as we build our adaptable style of play.”

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.