Fire end losing skid, earn hard-fought point in Houston


Fire end losing skid, earn hard-fought point in Houston

After a morale-boosting victory in their Round of 16 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Charlotte Independence on Tuesday, the Chicago Fire showed the resilience to come from behind once again. This time, it was Patrick Nyarko's 72nd-minute goal that helped the Men in Red salvage a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo Friday night.

"Great effort from our guys, really proud of the way they fought and battled against adversity with a few injuries here and there and a couple things going on, not having a full lineup," head coach Frank Yallop said following the match. "I’m proud of the way we played and getting a point here."

Frank Yallop made sweeping changes to the side that dispatched the third-division outfit three days earlier. Jeff Larentowicz, reported to be struggling with right groin tightness and subsequently left off Tuesday's team sheet, was replaced by Eric Gehrig. Half an hour before kickoff, the Fire announced Larentowicz would be out for two weeks with a herniated disc.

As a result, Matt Polster was restored to his tenured center midfield role, playing alongside Razvan Cocis, and flanked by Harry Shipp and Jason Johnson on the right and left wings, respectively. Meanwhile, Guly do Prado took the place of Mike Magee and partnered Kennedy Igboananike to lead the firing line.

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Despite a relatively uneventful first half, it was the Fire who nearly jumped out to an early lead. A Harry Shipp corner kick was met by Razvan Cocis in the fourth minute, with the Romanian's one-time effort hitting the underside of the crossbar and bouncing off the line, which multiple replays ruled to have not crossed the line. 

In the 13th minute, Houston spurned a golden opportunity to get on the front foot themselves, as Giles Barnes, blowing past Greg Cochrane down the right flank, bursted through in the box and slid a cross to the on-rushing Will Bruin, whose dismal shot from close range missed Johnson's frame completely as the Fire 'keeper breathed a sigh of relief.

The sides entered the break with not much to show for in the opening 45. Yallop elected to bring on Patrick Nyarko for Jason Johnson to start the second half, which became an open affair quite quickly.

[RELATED: Fire travel to face Dynamo in the Houston heat]

It was the Dynamo, however, who would strike first. After good interplay down the left side, Brad Davis provided a low cross across the goal mouth, with Bruin and Johnson vying for it. The ball squirted out the other side, allowing former Fire midfielder Alex to tap in unmarked at the back post in the 56th minute.

Three minutes later, Mike Magee entered the fray and found himself on the end of a delivery from Lovel Palmer immediately following his introduction, but his effort was well monitored by the Dynamo's Joe Willis. That chance was shortly followed up by a header from Nyarko in the 63rd minute, which skimmed the crossbar and left Yallop's group tantalizingly close to finding an equalizer.

In the 72nd minute, Nyarko was at last rewarded for his diligent work. The Ghanaian got on the end of a Greg Cochrane cross and collided with Willis in the process, but cleaned up the mess, notching his first goal in MLS play since May 10, 2014 to level the match at one apiece.

"Patrick had a big impact in the game on Tuesday—the cup game we had at home—and he comes and gets the tying goal here," Yallop added. "Just really pleased for him, it’s been a long road back. Him and Mike off the bench… it’s a long haul back from that type of injury so I’m very happy that they’re both on the field and contributing, doing well."

[MORE: Palmer hopes Fire can use Open Cup as "springboard" to MLS success]  

As the closing stages wound down, the West vs. East encounter produced end-to-end action, but ultimately left the cross-conference foes with even honors. With the result, the Fire still remain in last place in the Eastern Conference, with eight days' rest before returning to face the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Park. The Dynamo travel to the Bay Area to battle the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium on July 10.
NOTE: Adaílton went down injured in the 71st minute of the game and was substituted by Chris Ritter. The Brazilian defender exited with a groin strain, according to a team official. His status for the Seattle game is TBD. 
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Adailton (Chris Ritter, 71'), Greg Cochrane; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis (C), Matt Polster, Jason Johnson (Patrick Nyarko, 46'); Guly do Prado, Kennedy Igboananike (Mike Magee, 59').

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.