Fire hope 'fantastic fightback' at Union carries over vs. Rapids


Fire hope 'fantastic fightback' at Union carries over vs. Rapids

When Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop set about prying offensive-minded talent during the offseason, the investment in David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike and Shaun Maloney signaled Yallop's belief that the Men in Red - bolstered by a triumvirate of highly touted, designated player acquisitions - were to be an "exciting team to watch," and a balanced one at that.

Through 23 games in the MLS regular season and on the heels of a shattering withdrawal from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals, the pendulum has swung every which way for the Fire (6-12-5, 23 points), who face the Colorado Rapids (5-9-9, 24 points) Saturday night at Toyota Park (7:30 p.m. CT; CSN) desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.  

“We’ve had a few games where we’ve not looked like we were that interested in playing,” Yallop told reporters Tuesday via teleconference. “Sometimes lack of confidence looks like lack of effort, but what I will say about Sunday, I think that that was a fantastic fight-back display against a team that’s home that’s beaten us on Wednesday. We had to come back and show that we weren’t going to give up, and we didn’t. ... Hopefully that'll be a springboard for the next two games to get results."

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Igboananike, whose designated player contract was bought down to make way for the signing of Brazilian forward Gilberto before the close of the secondary transfer window, produced a gritty, two-goal and one-assist display on Sunday, while Accam's lingering hamstring issues confined the Ghanaian to the bench as the Fire's shambolic defensive performance - but for Sean Johnson's heroics - demanded a three-goal outing to help snatch a last-gasp point against the Philadelphia Union.

By the time the Men in Red line up against the Rapids, however, Maloney - eight months after his arrival from Wigan Athletic - will have already left Chicago.

Amid reports in recent weeks confirming the submission of bids from English Championship side Hull City, the Scotland international, who netted thrice for the Men in Red and bagged two assists in 14 appearances, is set to make his return across the pond for family reasons. Yallop, speaking with the Daily Herald after training Thursday, said the deal was all but confirmed, with City boss Steve Bruce expounding on it to local radio Friday morning.     

[RELATED: Fire, Union settle for point in dramatic draw in Philadelphia]

Without the Scotsman, the last-placed Fire will have to press on as the playoff picture could be significantly altered by weekend's end. Fifth-placed Toronto FC (31 points) battle eighth-placed Orlando City SC (28 points) Saturday afternoon before Didier Drogba and sixth-placed Montreal Impact (28 points) clash with ninth-placed Union later on.

Following Saturday's encounter with Pablo Mastroeni's men, Yallop & Co. face stiff tests in the remaining 10 matches against Eastern Conference opponents: a trio of fixtures against high-flying New York Red Bulls; a home-and-home with Orlando City; two visits to Saputo Stadium to face the Impact and games against Toronto, New England Revolution and D.C. United.

“They’ve kept going; they’ve kept fighting,” Yallop said of his group. “We’re a couple of bad mistakes away from being around the playoffs. We’ve just got to put that right. We’ve got to get a couple of good results early now in the next three games. If we can do that, we’re right in the picture.”

Viewing information:

Chicago Fire vs. Colorado Rapids

Kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

Broadcast: CSN Chicago         

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.