Fire

Fire expect tough test in KC, but may have good timing

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Fire expect tough test in KC, but may have good timing

If ever there was a time to face Sporting Kansas City, this might be it.

The Chicago Fire head to Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday to take on a Sporting KC team that just traded Dom Dwyer to Orlando. The trade itself is making waves around Major League Soccer for the record-breaking amount of allocation money involved ($1.6 million if incentives are hit), but for the Fire it simply means an opportunity to get a crack at the hosts before they fully regroup without the prolific scorer.

On top of that, Gerso Fernandes, who leads the team with six goals, is suspended for the game for a dangerous tackle last weekend at Real Salt Lake. Other SKC stalwarts Matt Besler and Graham Zusi are returning to the team after starting in and winning Wednesday’s Gold Cup final with the national team. Key defender Ike Opara is listed as questionable after suffering a concussion in a U.S. Open Cup game on July 11.

That’s not to say Sporting won’t still be a tough out, especially at home. KC is undefeated at home (6-0-4) and hasn’t lost in two months. Sporting is on a 10-match unbeaten run, including three wins in the U.S. Open Cup, even with Besler, Zusi and Dwyer missing time while with the national team.

“They are a good team,” Fire winger David Accam said. “We know what they can do. They are really solid at the back also. They tend to win, especially in Kansas, they haven’t lost yet. They haven’t lost a game there and they are a really good team so for us we need to put New York behind us and try to concentrate and focus on the next game.”

The Fire (11-4-5, 38 points) are trying to rebound from a 2-1 loss at New York City FC, the Fire’s first MLS loss since April. The game will air live on CSN+ with coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

KC (8-4-9, 33 points) has allowed a jaw-dropping 15 goals in 21 matches, which is the best total in the league. Central midfielder Ilie Sanchez has proven to be a revelation and helps protect the backline and defend the middle of the field, something the Fire has struggled with a few times this season including the loss in New York.

Even with a potentially shorthanded backline, Kansas City is still a solid defensive team with goalkeeper Tim Melia having a standout season.

“I think for me it’s a great opportunity for us, playing against one of the best teams also in the league, a tough team,” Paunovic said. “A great opportunity to recover the mentality we had and it’s not going to be easy. I think they have a very balanced team, good in attack, good in defense, one of the best in defense obviously in the league, but we have one of the best attacks. I think it’s a great test for this is how we are going to prepare our guys.

“For sure, if we can break this defense, we then can keep believing that we are one of the best attacks and teams in the league. That’s going to be the challenge.”

The Fire will be without Brandon Vincent, who suffered a quad injury in warmups before the game in New York. Michael Harrington filled in at left back. Patrick Doody, who recently returned from a loan spell with USL team Saint Lousi FC, is another option at left back.

Chicago Fire at Sporting Kansas City

Where: Children's Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kan.

TV: CSN+

When: Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (11-4-5, 38 points), Sporting KC (8-4-9, 33 points)

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.