Fire fall to D.C. at Toyota Park, lose fourth straight


Fire fall to D.C. at Toyota Park, lose fourth straight

What began as another relatively stalwart defensive display from the Chicago Fire ended in a fourth straight defeat in MLS play, as Frank Yallop's side fell 1-0 to Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United Wednesday night in front of 11,833 at Toyota Park.

A rocket from Conor Doyle in the 73rd-minute secured a second win on the trot for the Men in Red's conference rival, as the Fire remained at the bottom of the standings.

"We should be good enough to win games," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "We work hard in the training field, the guys are committed it seems, you don’t know if it really is real deep within them, but I think it is. I have been around awhile, I kind of feel for the guys right now."

Yallop made a trio of adjustments to the side that experienced a 2-0 defeat in Foxborough at the hands of the New England Revolution.

Sean Johnson, earning his first start since the 2-2 draw against New York City FC on May 15, replaced Jon Busch in goal, who appeared in the last five MLS regular season fixtures. Joevin Jones - making his return from international duty with Trinidad and Tobago - occupied the left midfield position in place of Greg Cochrane, who retreated to left back for his second consecutive league start. Chris Ritter also stood in for suspended rookie Matt Polster after putting in 120 minutes against Louisville City FC last Tuesday.  

The opening stages were hardly reflective of some of the sparkling first half performances demonstrated earlier this season as the Fire offered little going forward. The Eastern Conference sides exchanged blows in the early minutes as Jeff Larentowicz, Kennedy Igboananike and Adailton were caught on either side of some chippy fouls, with the Men in Red registering 12 fouls against their counterparts.

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In the seventh minute, Igboananike was released down the right flank by Harry Shipp, only to slice his effort high and wide of Bill Hamid's goal.

D.C.'s Facundo Coria sidestepped Larentowicz at the top of the 18 in the 20th minute and unleashed a stinging, left-footed shot aimed at Sean Johnson, who did well to palm the Argentinian's effort up and over the bar.

Six minutes later, the Men in Red attempted to carve out a meaningful opportunity of their own, but saw a Greg Cochrane cross in the 24th minute easily dealt with by the D.C. defense. The visitors subsequently stormed down the pitch with Jairo Arrieta, who scored the second and third goals to sink Yallop's side three weeks earlier, nearly converting at the other end, forcing another alert save from Johnson.

Igboanaike again struggled to translate his commendable work rate to any profit at the half our mark, as the Designated Player did well to beat Kofi Opare inside the opposition's box before failing to trouble Hamid once again.   

[RELATED: Fire look to avoid four-match losing skid with result vs. D.C.]

The second 45 saw the visitors bring on Fabian Espindola and Nick DeLeon to help muster more than just a solitary point away from their visit to Toyota Park.

Sustained pressure eventually paid dividends for Ben Olsen's outfit when, with just over a quarter of an hour remaining in the encounter, Conor Doyle hit a rifling first-time shot from 25 yards in the 73rd minute to grab all three points and help D.C. remain atop the Eastern Conference.

"It’s probably the best goal he is going to score and I think tonight that was one of the better goals we have seen here," Yallop added. "It is just frustrating when that happens, it would be nice for one of those to go in for us. Then we can get the ball rolling and the effort from the group tonight was there. We didn’t want to lose the game, the fellows gave me everything they have, they give themselves and the team, the club, and the fans a right good go trying to win the game."

The Fire return with a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match against the Charlotte Independence next Tuesday, while D.C. face Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday. 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Adailton, Greg Cochrane; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Chris Ritter (Mike Magee, 73'), Joevin Jones (Jason Johnson, 46'); Guly do Prado; Kennedy Igboananike.

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.