Fire

Fire going 'all out' in preparation for USOC quarterfinal

chivorl07212015.png

Fire going 'all out' in preparation for USOC quarterfinal

It's no secret that the Chicago Fire hold the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in high esteem.

With a 23-1-1 record in Open Cup games held in the state of Illinois, the Fire -- champions of the competition in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 -- booked their place in the last eight for the 13th time in club history with a win over Charlotte Independence on June 30.  

Having never been eliminated at the quarterfinal stage -- boasting an 11-0-1 record all-time -- the Men in Red will look to continue the trend Wednesday night against Orlando City SC at Toyota Park (7:30 p.m. CT; Chicago-Fire.com, USSoccer.com). Three wins shy of a fifth Open Cup title, a fourth semifinal berth since last lifting the trophy -- and second consecutive since head coach Frank Yallop's appointment -- is on the line.

“In the [first] two rounds, we found a way to win,” Yallop said Monday via teleconference. “Hopefully it’s our tournament. We’re desperate to do well. It’s a very good record, and hopefully that continues to 24-1-1. It will be tough. Orlando are a good side, as we’ve seen. They’re coming in to try and win the match, and they have some good players, but our guys will be up for it and ready. Let’s hope we can get through and get a good result.” 

[RELATED: Fire to host Orlando City SC in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals]

Should the Fire carry the day, they will travel to face the Philadelphia Union, who outlasted the New York Red Bulls with 10 men Tuesday night and prevailed in penalty kicks to etch their place in the semifinals.

Heading into Wednesday's clash, however, a 3-2 league defeat to Orlando City on June 6 -- the first of four scheduled fixtures between the sides in 2015 -- will evoke haunting memories of a game Yallop “felt we should’ve got more out of,” he told reporters. After taking a 2-1 lead through clinically taken goals by Kennedy Igboananike and David Accam, Orlando City striker Cyle Larin's bullet and Adaílton's own goal helped the visitors secure three points at Toyota Park.

Since then, Yallop's roster depth has come to the fore, as captain Jeff Larentowicz, Designated Players Shaun Maloney and David Accam -- among others -- were sidelined with injuries. Despite the absences of Larentowicz and Mike Magee, who was forced to sit out of Sunday's 3-1 loss at Columbus Crew SC with a knee contusion, Yallop will have the rare luxury of fielding a near first-choice lineup. Accam and Patrick Nyarko are in contention to start, Joevin Jones is back and recuperating from Trinidad and Tobago's exit from the Gold Cup, and, after taking part in his first full training session Monday morning, Maloney will likely be available for selection.     

"[Wednesday] is an important game for the Fire," Yallop added. "It's [Open Cup] a big, big tournament we want to win. We’re going all out. It’s not a lineup that’s going to be to give guys 90 minutes. This is to win the match. I know the tradition we have here at this club, and we want to continue that and have a good result on Wednesday to get through to the next round. We’ll deal with the weekend game after that.”

[SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey]

A victory Wednesday night for the Men in Red could generate promising effects apart from just the Open Cup. With back-to-back defeats to Crew SC, a third straight loss, conversely, would breed a streak not experienced since early March and June, when the Fire lost three on the trot against Western and Eastern Conference opponents, respectively.

Ahead of MLS regular season matches against the New England Revolution and FC Dallas, punching a ticket to a 13th Open Cup semifinal appearance could provide just the sort of boost the Men in Red need as they begin a three-match homestand.

“It’s not been according to plan with what’s gone on this season, injuries a part of it and not quite getting the job done is a part of it,” Yallop said. “We’ve just got to believe we’re going to win every game we’re going to play, and that’s all we can do. Including on Wednesday, and then come Saturday and the following Sunday, we’ve got three home games in a row, so we’ve got to look to get three wins if we can.”   

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.