Fire

Fire face Sporting Kansas City in 50th all-time meeting

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Fire face Sporting Kansas City in 50th all-time meeting

Reeling from a third consecutive win, the Chicago Fire finds itself in unfamiliar territory. Sporting Kansas City can say the same, having re-joined Major League Soccer's Western Conference this season.

After securing home wins against the Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC and New York City FC, the Men in Red boast the longest active winning streak in the league and a three-match spate last encountered 19 months ago.

On Sunday, Frank Yallop & Co. will have one chance to put it on the line against Peter Vermes' side, which, for the last decade, has been a regular fixture for the Fire in seasons past. A recent conference realignment saw Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo make way for expansion sides NYCFC and Orlando City SC in the East, meaning Sunday's nationally televised match at Sporting Park will mark the lone meeting between the two teams in 2015.  

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The Men in Red approach their 50th all-time meeting with Sporting KC -- formerly the Kansas City Wizards -- possessing a commanding 25-13-11 record, but are 8-9-9 on their travels. Despite comparatively going winless in their first three matches, Sporting KC are unbeaten at home and have not lost to the Fire at home since June 2012.

Both sides will be without the services of Matt Watson and Servando Carrasco, who will serve a one-game suspension on Sunday following a decision by the league's Disciplinary Committee this week. 

However, with a Man of the Match performance from David Accam and a virtually flawless defensive display in the Fire's most recent MLS outing, Yallop's side dispelled any doubts of rust following the 20-day layoff.

"We got a lot fitter, I thought we were really on task the whole game, pressed the whole game," he said after the match. "We did all the right things, and that comes from fitness and the great job that our coaching staff did over the three weeks."

Still, Yallop, while pleased with the overall attacking play, cited the lack of a finishing touch against NYCFC. The Fire finished the match with 24 shots, only seven of which were on target.

“I wouldn’t call them problems, just the final little bit of guile will come with a bit more play and bit more confidence," Yallop said after the match.

[MORE FIRE: Watson suspended, fined for foul play vs. NYCFC]

Though the Men in Red have six different goalscorers this season, none of their designated strikers have found the back of the net, a minor quibble in an otherwise burgeoning attack.

On the back of a 4-4 draw at the Dynamo, Sporting KC, on the other hand, is finding success through alternative avenues as forward Dom Dwyer continues to regain the groove that saw him net 22 goals last season, three of which came in all three fixtures against the Fire. Having played every minute of every match this season, Dwyer will prove to be a handful for the Men in Red, as the former South Florida Bull leads MLS with 26 fouls suffered and has had four goals disallowed for straying offside.

Meanwhile, Hungarian winger Krisztian Nemeth's team-high of three goals may just be taking some of the pressure off of Dwyer, who was far and away Sporting KC's go-to player in 2014. Contributions from Sean Maloney's former Wigan Athletic teammate in Roger Espinoza and Benny Feilhaber have supplemented their attack as well.

Feilhaber -- the MLS Player of the Month nominee -- leads the league with five assists and notched two goals against the Dynamo, with his game-tying strike earning MLS Goal of the Week honors for week eight.

With both sides' individual players discovering their form and adjusting to the hustle and bustle of the MLS regular season, the Fire's mettle and three-match league win streak will be put to the test in its first road trip since slipping to the San Jose Earthquakes and the LA Galaxy in March. So, what's at stake?

The Men in Red last won four consecutive league games during a 20-day stretch in September 2012, taking down the Dynamo, Montreal Impact, Columbus Crew SC and Toronto in the process. Should they come away with three points against Vermes' outfit, a first win on their travels in 10 previous attempts will only breed more confidence ahead of a busy month that, after Sunday, includes four games in three weeks.

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.