Fire first-rounder Jonathan Campbell adjusting to life as a professional


Fire first-rounder Jonathan Campbell adjusting to life as a professional

Brandon Vincent got more of the headlines on draft day as the higher pick, but Jonathan Campbell also figures to be a key part of the Chicago Fire’s future.

The center back who the Fire selected 12th overall in the MLS SuperDraft plays a position of need for the club and is the only young option at the position. While his 2016 role may be to learn the ropes of MLS and being a professional athlete in general while only filling in when needed, Campbell represents an important piece of the longer-term future of the club.

“I don’t think you should look at it as pressure,” Campbell said of being a first round draft pick. “I think it’s just nice that we have a good opportunity here. A lot of change here going on so I think some other guys (in the draft) can go somewhere else that maybe they don’t have very high chances of playing. I think it’s very positive here.”

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The 6-foot-2 defender is getting settled into training as the Fire’s preseason began on Monday. The upcoming trips to Tampa and Portland are just two more stops on a busy stretch of travel for Campbell.

The former North Carolina standout endured the busy month of travel for MLS rookies. First, Campbell made the trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., for the MLS Combine. After playing three games in five days, which Campbell described as stressful, he flew to Baltimore for the draft.

“I actually didn’t pack well for the draft weather,” Campbell said. “Obviously going from warm to cold and now I come to Chicago and then we’re going to go to Tampa and Portland. There’s no chance you can pack properly for being in three completely different cities.”

Living out of a suitcase for the time being is the least of Campbell’s worries. He’s been working on preparing himself for his first taste of professional soccer.

“I think the next level just from college to pro comes down to how many plays you can make right versus wrong and just getting that percentage as high as possible,” Campbell said. “That can be in possession or just making the right play defensively. I don’t think guys are going to be that much different athletically. I think you’ll play against some very athletic guys in college, but I think the tactical decisions is the next level.”

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One thing Campbell said he is working on is being more aggressive attacking the ball on offensive corner kicks. He is confident in his ability defensively on corners, but wants to be more of a threat on the attacking end.

As for the team, Campbell believes the Fire need to get off to a fast start to avoid a repeat of 2015.

“As a team, obviously last year was hard for them so I think the main thing is a switch in mentality,” he said. “If you don’t start off on the right foot, I think it can lead to some negative attitudes, but I think we can get off on a good start and that will be very positive for us.”

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.