Fire finish home schedule against New England today on CSN+

Fire finish home schedule against New England today on CSN+

Just three days after tying Columbus to eliminate the Crew from playoff contention, the Chicago Fire can play spoiler again in the home finale.

The Fire host the New England Revolution, which sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, on Sunday. A loss for New England (10-13-9, 39 points) would virtually eliminate the Revolution, barring a shocking double-digit turnaround in goal differential, while even a tie could see them eliminated if Philadelphia tie or beat Orlando. All five Eastern Conference games on Sunday will kick off at the same time to create extra drama around tight playoff scenarios like this.

The game will be televised on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The match will kick off just after 2 p.m.

It is the Fire’s final home match of the season. Picking up one more win in front of the home fans is something coach Veljko Paunovic emphasized after the draw against Columbus.

“This game we have to win it for our fans because the people supporting us during the whole year, we appreciate that,” Paunovic said. “We got to give them a win next game. Guys we got to win.”

The Fire have a 5-3-8 record at home, which is tied with three other teams for the fewest home wins in the league. The team is hoping to leave Toyota Park for 2016 with a good memory.

“It was disappointing to not to get the win for the fans (against Columbus) and for us, but I think we need to move past it now and try to get those three points on Sunday against New England,” midfielder Matt Polster said.

In addition to trying to finish with a win to close out the home schedule, the Fire (6-16-10, 28 points) are trying to keep hope alive to avoid finishing in last place in back-to-back seasons. Houston is five points ahead of the Fire.

Both the Fire and Revolution enter without any significant injuries and Paunovic has said he intends to play a strong lineup to try to get the win as opposed to rotating the squad to give younger players some minutes.

“I want to see our guys working hard and giving our best to win the game,” Paunovic said. “That’s all I want for the next game and we have to do everything to do that.”

This will be the fourth time the Fire and Revolution meet in 2016. All three previous meetings were New England wins in Foxborough. New England won 2-0 on May 14, 1-0 on July 23 and 3-1 in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Aug. 9.

New England has won four of its past five matches to get back in the playoff race. Juan Agudelo has scored three goals in that stretch while Kei Kamara has had two goals and two assists.

Typical play-by-play announcer Dan Kelly will be doing a national broadcast for Sunday so Michael Watts will be taking his place alongside Frank Klopas in the booth.

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.