Fire

Fire fall to Real Salt Lake despite late rally at Toyota Park

fire-real-salt-lake-0509.png

Fire fall to Real Salt Lake despite late rally at Toyota Park

In the Chicago Fire's first game at Toyota Park since a 1-0 victory over expansion side New York City FC, the Men in Red saw their hopes of a fourth consecutive home win dashed after a 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

Goals from Alvaro Saborio and Luke Mulholland sealed RSL's third win of the season and ended their scoreless streak at 510 minutes, while the Fire's fifth loss of 2015 sends Frank Yallop's side back down to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

"I wasn't happy with the first half performance," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "Our energy wasn't there. The effort in the end was kind of there, but it was too late. We didn't think smartly and we didn't really make that final pass again.

"It was a disappointing afternoon, but I'm not going to fault the whole group. They didn't cave in; they kept going and could have gotten something in the end, but our first half performance was quite poor from us."

After emerging with a hard-fought point against defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday night, Jeff Cassar's outfit showed little signs of fatigue as they kept the Men in Red at bay in the opening stages before a nice passing sequence in the 14th minute gave the visitors an early advantage. A square ball from recent U.S. U-20 call-up Jordan Allen to forward Alvaro Saborio opened up the Fire defense, as his ensuing strike from the edge of the area flew past a diving Sean Johnson.

Two minutes before the break, the Men in Red nearly drew level after a fine corner-kick delivery from Designated Player Shaun Maloney found an unmarked Lovel Palmer in the box, only to see is volley hit the ground and bounce over Nick Rimando's goal. The lack of conviction and a finishing touch was evident once again, as the Fire finished out the half with 21 crosses, seven corner kicks and six shots, none of which yielded an effort on target.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Fire gear] 

In the second half, the frustration was felt yet again after Guly do Prado found himself in open space and bursting down the right side, but his cross-shot was unable to find the feet of a lurking Quincy Amarikwa.

The Fire were left to rue the missed opportunity as RSL found the eventual game winner through midfielder Luke Mulholland two minutes later. Allen was at the heart of the move once more and slipped a ball through to Devon Sandoval, who laid one into the path of Mulholland to tuck a sliding shot away past Johnson in the 56th minute.

For the remaining half hour, the Men in Red found the verve that was nonexistent throughout the greater part of the match, as Yallop sent on Kennedy Igboananike and debutant Jason Johnson to help rescue a point.

It nearly paid dividends as Maloney earned a penalty in the 88th minute, which captain Jeff Larentowicz buried to give the Fire a glimmer of hope going into the five minutes of stoppage time that followed, in which the Men in Red continued to pin a staunch RSL back four deep into their half.

[RELATED: Lack of conviction, slow starts underpin Fire's road woes]

Despite multiple attacking breaks, a lack of execution and some fine saves from Rimando to keep the Men in Red at arm's length, good game management and clinical finishing from the visiting side was enough for them to walk away with three points from Toyota Park.

"It's frustrating," Yallop said. You look at the game as a whole and you say 'did we deserve to win?' Maybe not, but did we deserve to lose with the general play? Maybe not. It's a game of goals and we only scored one from a penalty kick.

"We've just got to keep going and not lose faith in what we're doing. We're getting in certain spots on the field well, I think we're overlapping well, our switching of play was good, our general play was what we talked about, but just that final play, that cutting edge and confidence wasn't there."

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Adailton (Jason Johnson, 84'), Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Matt Watson (Razvan Cocis, 53'), Matt Polster, Shaun Maloney; Guly do Prado (Kennedy Igboananike, 58'); Quincy Amarikwa.

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

city-trophy-epl.jpg
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

katai.jpg
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.