Fire

Fire lack finishing touch in defeat to Montreal Impact

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Fire lack finishing touch in defeat to Montreal Impact

Brian Bliss received a rude welcome in his first match in charge as Fire interim head coach.

Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba picked up where he left off on Sept. 5, when he notched a hat trick in his first-ever MLS start against the Fire. On Wednesday night, the Ivorian notched his fifth goal of the season before David Accam tallied a team-leading ninth goal to pull Bliss' group level five minutes past the halftime interval. But second-half substitute Andrés Romero's clinical finish in the 76th minute was enough to hand the Men in Red a 2-1 defeat in front of 17,832 at Stade Saputo. 

The loss - a league-high 17th of 2015 - is the fourth on the bounce for the Fire (7-17-6, 27 points), who still occupy last place in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Impact (11-11-6, 39 points) have a four-point cushion over Orlando City SC in the sixth and final playoff spot with two games in hand.

Bliss made a quartet of changes following the 1-0 defeat to Orlando City four days earlier, with Lovel Palmer and Patrick Doody coming in for Daneil Cyrus and Joevin Jones at right and left back, respectively. Matt Polster and Gilberto also earned starts, deputizing for Michael Stephens and Harry Shipp.

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Both sides labored to carve out any concrete opportunities for themselves in the early stages, with Kennedy Igboananike and Gilberto trying their luck from distance before the 10-minute mark. In a flat 4-4-2 formation, the Fire back line capably blocked out Montreal's passing options and denied service in to the forwards, limiting the hosts to just one shot on target through the opening 38 minutes.

In the 16th minute, Gilberto was sent through on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat. The Brazilian elected to dribble around, but Evan Bush expertly pushed the ball away and out of his reach. Just past the half-hour mark, Gilberto found himself at the heart of the team's most clear-cut opportunity, squaring for Accam in the box, but the Ghanaian disappointingly scuffed his side-footed effort off target. 

Six minutes later, the Men in Red would come to haunt those earlier misses.

Nigel Reo-Coker outmuscled and wriggled free from Razvan Cocis before delivering a pinpointed cross into the box to Drogba. The 37-year-old appeared to have unlawfully wrestled Jeff Larentowicz to the ground en route to powering home a header past a helpless Jon Busch, a contentious moment that went uncalled by the officiating crew, but was enough to send the hosts into halftime with a 1-0 advantage.

[RELATED: Bliss hopes to replicate past interim stint, win with Fire in Montreal] 

In the second stanza, the Fire were injected with a bit of life. 

Doody lobbed a ball over the top of the Impact defense from his left back position. Gilberto first capitalized on a mistake by Víctor Cabrera, flicked the ball over an onrushing Bush and sent a header on goal. The effort was cleared off the line and clanged off the post before Accam followed up with a goal-line header to pull the visitors level. 

Perhaps the Fire's most gilt-edged chance on the night fell to Accam, who raced into the box in the 73rd minute. The combination of the Ghanaian's pace and trickery helped him sidestep two defenders, but in the end, opted to chip the scrambling Bush, who was relieved to see the effort sail over the crossbar.

Three minutes later, Mauro Biello's side made the Fire pay via a finely executed, quick-fire attacking move. Patrice Bernier collected the ball in the Fire's defensive half and measured a splitting pass between Larentowicz and Ty Harden for Romero, who coolly dispatched past Busch less than five minutes after coming on for Johan Venegas.

Next up for the Fire is Saturday's visit to BMO Field to take on Toronto FC, while the Impact travel to the nation's capital to face D.C. United at RFK Stadium.

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2) - Jon Busch; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Ty Harden, Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko (Harry Shipp, 83'), Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis, David Accam; Kennedy Igboananike (Joevin Jones, 66'), Gilberto (Mike Magee, 78').

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.