Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez hints at potential summer moves

Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez hints at potential summer moves

Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez gave some rain delay theater to some members of the media during Wednesday’s weather delay at Toyota Park. Rodriguez gave updates on where the team stands and what might happen in the current transfer window.

First, he said the team could end up being more active in this transfer window than originally planned. The later than hoped arrival of Michael de Leeuw and the departure of Gilberto have changed things since Rodriguez said the Fire wouldn’t be active in this summer window.

“We had some targets that we had identified for January and we are looking to see if we can accelerate any of those targets,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a little trickier because some of the clubs we’ve spoken to, we’ve spoken to on the basis of January. Do they have enough time to find a reinforcement if they make the move with us? The second thing that we’re trying to do is look within the league. I don’t want to say we’ve had advanced discussions, but we’ve had lengthy discussions on a few players within the league to see if we can reinforce the squad that way.”

Rodriguez said in some ways he prefers to acquire players from within Major League Soccer because of their familiarity with the league. He described those players as “potential starters” for the Fire.

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As he has said before, Rodriguez talked about the team’s need for a “bigger personality.” He cited de Leeuw’s competitiveness as something that goes along with that, but believes the Fire need more in that area.

As for the big question of the moment, the team’s open Designated Player spot, Rodriguez said it was possible the team could add a DP before the end of the season.

“If and when we find the right match, my answer is yes,” Rodriguez said. “I think one of the nice things that we have right now is that ability to strike with budget space, allocation, TAM (targeted allocation money), DP slot, international slot. Everything is available to us that if we find the right player, the right circumstance and if it fits in this window we can do it if we choose to.”

Rodriguez said a lot of the players from outside MLS the Fire are looking at have contracts that would expire in a year. Those players would have had only six months left on their contracts in the MLS offseason in January, meaning that transfer window would have been the last window for the current clubs to get anything in return for them before the contract expires.

As for what position the Fire need, Rodriguez mentioned a playmaker type is high on the list.

“I do believe that we need another provider in midfield,” Rodriguez said. “We’re also looking for a midfielder who creates and scores goals. Both. Those tend to be more expensive, those tend to be harder to get but I think that that is a piece that would really accelerate our improvement as a team if we could find it.”

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.