Fire hold U.S. Open Cup in high regard: 'It's got history here'


Fire hold U.S. Open Cup in high regard: 'It's got history here'

En route to last year's run-in to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal, the Chicago Fire dispatched the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Columbus Crew SC and Atlanta Silverbacks before slumping at the penultimate hurdle, losing out to eventual champion Seattle Sounders FC 6-0 at CenturyLink Field.

Ten months on from appearing in the club's 10th Open Cup semifinal - a modern era record - and his first with the Men in Red, Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp knows a victory in Tuesday night's fourth round encounter with USL's Louisville City FC could help rekindle the hunger required to recapture Open Cup glory.     

"It's tough especially in the summer months, the games are close together," Shipp said. "Last year we were able to win a few games and make it pretty far. Once you win a game or two in that, your competitive drive starts to come out and you want to win it all. I think some organizations take it more seriously than others and this is one that fortunately puts it on par with league play."

[RELATED: Fire to host Louisville City FC in fourth round of U.S. Open Cup]

Following a third round that saw all seven USL-NASL fixtures result in victories for the former, upsets were aplenty and the ensuing round promises for some entertaining clashes as 17 MLS outfits join in. Though it remains to be seen, four-time winners of the tournament - in its 102nd year - Frank Yallop's side certainly isn't taking it lightly. 

"We've got to win the game," Yallop said via teleconference Monday. "It's a tournament that this club's really taking seriously; I'm taking it seriously, as is the whole coaching staff and the players. We want to get on the right track; we want to get a win, especially at home, and get into the next round.

"It's no different to any year. I'm putting as much into this as all the other games we've tried to win this season. It's a tournament we want to do well in because it's got history here. We're desperate to do well; we want to win this first game, but do well in the tournament as a whole."

[SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey]

On the back of their third straight league defeat - a 2-0 decision against the New England Revolution - the Fire were forced to operate without Shaun Maloney (Scotland), David Accam (Ghana) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), who were all away on international duty. Maloney and Accam both scored for their national sides against the Republic of Ireland and Mauritius, respectively, while Jones and the Soca Warriors still await Tuesday's friendly against Jordan.

With the match against Louisville looming, Yallop confirmed Accam, Jones and Mike Magee - still nursing a slight hamstring tweak - would be unavailable, while Maloney would possibly make the bench.

Meanwhile, Collin Fernandez, who was loaned to James O'Connor's group last week, was summoned back by the Fire. The 18-year-old made his professional debut last Wednesday, entering as an 88th-minute substitute against the Montreal Impact, and followed up with 76 minutes in the 2-0 loss to the Rochester Rhinos.  

[MORE - Larentowicz: 'It's the players' obligation to get things done']     

Even with a somewhat depleted and fatigued group, Yallop hinted at deploying as strong a lineup as possible, namely a similar corps to the one that emerged fruitless from Foxborough. A win against the first-year franchise at Toyota Park, moreover, would do wonders to make amends for poor form in the recent string of Eastern Conference defeats.      

"Losing three in a row to conference opponents is not good," added Yallop. "Two have been away, but the one at home is the one you've got to get maximum points from. If you do well at home - like most teams do in our league - that's where you get most of your maximum points and we didn't do that.

"At some point, you can get points and wins on the road, but your home form has to be the one that drives you on. We've won four and lost three at home, which is not good. Big game tomorrow night, but big game the following Wednesday against D.C. again."

Fire vs. Louisville, slated for a 7:30 p.m. CT kickoff, will be available via live web stream on with Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan on the call. To watch the stream, click here

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.