Fire

Fire: As injuries pile up, Yallop mulls interest in transfer window

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Fire: As injuries pile up, Yallop mulls interest in transfer window

Prior to the Men in Red's 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo Friday night, Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop had to stomach the unwelcome news that captain Jeff Larentowicz would miss the match and an additional two weeks with a herniated disc.

That injury, preceded by Adaílton's premature exit with a groin strain, leaves the Fire shorn of both of their starting center backs, who've anchored the defense in 13 of 16 MLS regular season matches. With injuries piling up and a crucial stretch of league fixtures looming, Yallop's concentration is on his squad while gradually shifting toward the opening of Wednesday's secondary transfer window, which runs through Aug. 6.

"We've got a lot of irons in the fire right now," he said Monday via teleconference. "Sometimes your focus changes with a couple of injuries. We're looking to strengthen, for sure. We've got nothing pending or nothing that's real close yet. We're trying our best to nail it down. We're hoping Jeff gets through his thing tomorrow and then we can really focus on what we're trying to do."

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Larentowicz, who'd been afflicted with right groin tightness in recent weeks as well, had been dealing with neck pain since June 24 vs. D.C. United. He will meet with a specialist on Tuesday to determine the extent of the problem and timetable for his return, which is "up in the air," according to Yallop. 

Since succumbing to a last-place finish in the Eastern Conference with 2015's halfway point in clear view, Yallop's job security has come under some scrutiny, with various sources reporting the second-year head coach's reign in Bridgeview is nearing its end. With a somewhat underwhelming start to his second full season at the helm, his talks with Owner and Chairman Andrew Hauptman recently suggest whispers citing a rift between the Fire brass and technical staff are insubstantial.

"I'm just here doing my job, there's always going to be rumors when you're not doing well," Yallop said. "I don't worry about it. My focus is on the team. Worrying about it and thinking about it all the time is not good. I'm just going to get on with my job, make sure I do it as best I can. Maybe we need to get a doctor in rather than a coach.

"We've spoken just as normal, trying to get the team obviously in the winning column in the league and any potential moves. So no, we've not discussed my individual position, not at all."

[MORE: Fire, CSN to provide three Spanish-language telecasts in July]

In the meantime - with one eye on the summer window - the attention switches to molding the injury-laiden side and those available into a formidable team that can begin to compete with the league's best, a task that begins Saturday against Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders FC.

Ty Harden, newly acquired from the San Jose Earthquakes last week in an exchange with Quincy Amarikwa, could prove to be a timely addition as Yallop prepares to tweak his back four in the coming days. Given some of the injury setbacks, Harden, who's dealt with hamstring issues of his own, could conceivably feature in the starting lineup against Sigi Schmid's outfit alongside Eric Gehrig.

“He hasn’t been full training yet, it’s been a lot of running,” Yallop said, "but he’ll be ready to go on the weekend, I’m sure." 

 

Manchester City brings Premier League trophy to Chicago ahead of preseason game in Soldier Field

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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

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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.