Fire

Fire excited to get a win for fans in home finale after disappointing season

Fire excited to get a win for fans in home finale after disappointing season

Coach Veljko Paunovic had urged his team to get one final home win for the fans to close out the 2016 Chicago Fire home schedule.

He got his wish.

The Fire came roaring out of the gates with an early goal from Michael de Leeuw, but needed a David Accam goal in the 80th minute to secure a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution on Sunday.

"I know it was a hard season for everyone, but at least we could grant them this good win," Paunovic said.

De Leeuw got things to started early with a goal similar to all of his other goals with the Fire (7-16-10, 31 points). The 30-year-old Dutch forward scored on a first-touch shot from inside the 6-yard box after a low cross from Brandon Vincent in the ninth minute.

New England (10-14-9, 39 points) tied things up when Diego Fagundez cleaned up some scraps by running onto a loose ball and tucking it past Sean Johnson just before halftime.

The second half got a bit weird with red cards for both teams. First, Fire forward Luis Solignac intentionally tripped London Woodberry in the 54th minute and was sent off. His suspension for the final regular season match at Toronto means Solignac’s season is done.

Then, nearly 20 minutes later New England goalkeeper Brad Knighton was given a red card. David Accam surprised Knighton after he went to kick a ball upfield. Knighton then tackled Accam in an effort to regain possession.

Accam would later get the game-winner when he ran down a Jonathan Campbell longball and converted the breakaway.

"The fans deserve much more than what we have given them this season," Accam said. "Today it was all about the fans, about us giving everything we have on the pitch for the fans. I think that’s what we showed today. We went to win it for the fans and we did that.”

Winning for the fans was the theme after the match. Paunovic and the players talked candidly about how disappointing the season has been. Ending the home portion of the schedule on a high note was something to give back to the fans who have endured a sixth year out of seven with no playoffs.

"To be completely honest with you it hasn’t been a great season from the standpoint of results so I think to come here and finish our last game here on a positive note and give the fans something is good," midfielder Matt Polster said.

“I think it means a lot," de Leeuw said. "We all knew how the season went and we just wanted to give something to the fans."

The loss virtually eliminated New England from playoff contention, barring the Revolution making up a 13 goal differential on Philadelphia in the final week. The Fire had lost all three previous meetings with the Revolution this season, including a U.S. Open Cup semifinal in August.

The win ensured the Fire will improve upon last season's point total. The 2015 Fire finished with 30 points, the worst in the history of the club. At 31 points, this year's group has barely passed that with one game left. The Fire also still have a chance to move out of last place. The win moved the Fire within two points of Houston.

The Fire close out the season next Sunday at Toronto.

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.