Fire hope to be healthier after off week


Fire hope to be healthier after off week

With a number of nagging injuries, the off week for the Chicago Fire may have come at a good time.

A week ago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said he had only 14 players for a training session. The combination of injuries and players being away on international duty left the coach short-handed.

The biggest injury concern, of course, is David Accam. Accam missed the match against Columbus and his status remains up in the air.

“David is recovering well," Paunovic said in his weekly conference call with media. "We still don’t know if he will be able to be on time for Saturday’s game, but he is recovering well and we are happy with that. We have to check his status day-by-day and see how he will recover for the game. At this point we can’t say if he will be able to play the game against Philly.”

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Two other injuries from last week were Arturo Alvarez and John Goossens. Paunovic said both trained with the full group today so it sounds like both will be available Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.

Paunovic said he expects Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster to be available Saturday upon returning from the U.S. U-23 team, but will have to see how they feel when they return to Chicago. The U-23s can qualify for the Olympics with a win Tuesday against Colombia in Frisco, Tex., after a 1-1 draw on the road.

In other news, Paunovic talked about the loans of Patrick Doody and Drew Conner to Saint Louis FC. Doody, in his second loan stint with the Fire's USL affiliate, started the season-opening 1-0 loss at the Real Monarchs on Saturday. He was subbed out in the 89th minute. Conner came on as a sub in the 84th minute.

Paunovic said the club had decided to loan out Doody and Conner "a long time ago."

“We believe that young players need to play," Paunovic said. "In order to develop well they have to have games, playing in real games with competition. That’s very important."

The two Fire Homegrown players will be joined by teammate Eric Gehrig when Saint Louis FC visits LA Galaxy II on Wednesday. Gehrig is fit after surgery last season, but needs game action.

"We expect that he can get some minutes in order so that he can be better prepared and eligible in the game against Philly or the next game," Paunovic said. "We are not putting any deadline in front of him or us. We just want Eric to recover well, build some minutes in the game and after that we can evaluate how he feels."

More temporary loans like Gehrig's could occur in 2016.

“In the future we are thinking about sending more players there back and forth in order to get more minutes," Paunovic said. "The last game a lot of players that we have, young players, the last game they played 90 minutes was maybe six or four months ago."

Finally, the last nugget Paunovic gave was more of a hint than an actual piece of information. When asked about any potential player additions to the roster before the first MLS transfer window closes on May 11, Paunovic said, "We are working on that."

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.