Fire eager to return after bye week

Fire eager to return after bye week

After losing to Montreal on April 16, the Chicago Fire had a bye week, which meant the team had to stew in that home defeat seven extra days.

Now the team is preparing to take on D.C. United on Saturday at Toyota Park. The team is back to a regular week of practice, but the extra wait after a loss is something the team has had to endure.

“After we lost our game against Montreal, you wanted the next game as soon as possible, but also we believe that we have to be patient," Paunovic said in his weekly conference call with the media on Monday. "We have to understand that we have a possibility to work for two weeks like we did, we have to take advantage of it.

"It’s always helpful when you have two weeks to prepare for the next game and recover and think about down the line and everything necessary in order to be better prepared for the next game after you lose a game. At the same time the guys who like to compete, and I think I am one of them and also in the locker room, we have a lot of guys who are impatient about next game, which is good. I like that very much because they want that payback. They want to show that we can be better."

One of the players who is certainly eager to get back to game action, but hasn't been able to do so for weeks, is David Accam. Without any game action to talk about, Paunovic's weekly David Accam injury update became a focal point of the conference call. For the first time in a few weeks, Paunovic finally sounded more optimistic about Accam, but also downplayed the chances of him coming back against D.C.

“The good news is he is progressing," Paunovic said. "He is at least feeling less pain and it is very located, which is good news. Having a meeting this morning with our doctors, they feel very comfortable with how he is improving and we will see. I don’t know for this game, but in the next couple of weeks we believe that David can be good to go.”

Accam has been in the Fire locker room after home matches while being out with injury and the usually jovial Accam at times looked like a kid who couldn't play in the park with his friends. Paunovic talked about Accam's mentality and gave a bit more detail about the ligament injury.

“He understands that he has to do his treatment and keep his emotions under control and not get frustrated," Paunovic said of Accam. "So far I believe everything in the process of recovery has been the natural process of a ligament injury where you need 6-8 weeks. Right now we are at six weeks. Six weeks of natural recovery helping the treatment with everything he is doing so far. I think we have to understand it’s not a minor injury and we have to be very, very smart in our approach to how we are going through this process of his recovery. He of course would like as quickly as possible to come back, but he is also very smart in how he is managing that excitement and desire to come back and start playing as soon as possible and help the team.

“We have to understand that we don’t want to make this injury worse.”

In addition to being given the OK from the Fire's medical staff, Accam will have to regain fitness after not being able to play. He has been able to be a partial participant in some practices during the injury so he won't be starting from scratch, but getting Accam back up to 90-minute fitness might take an additional week or two.

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.