Fire

Fire left despondent after loss to Rapids: ‘It's unacceptable’

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Fire left despondent after loss to Rapids: ‘It's unacceptable’

Of the six losses the Chicago Fire have encountered at Toyota Park this season, arguably none were met with more frustration and disappointment than Saturday night's defeat to the Colorado Rapids.

Pablo Mastroeni's side had brought up the rear of the Western Conference for much of the season, as had Frank Yallop's group in the Eastern Conference. Though both remained glued to last place in their respective regions by night's end, Colorado's sucker-punch, counter-attack goal - the lone tally on the night - breathed life into the visitors, who had only registered seven goals in 11 games on the road heading into Saturday's cross-conference clash.

For the Fire, the thorough and consummate 2-0 toppling of FC Dallas at the beginning of August has become a distant memory. Since then, elimination from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup - sandwiched between a 1-0 loss to the Portland Timbers and last weekend's 3-3 draw at the Philadelphia Union - has seen lingering discontentment among fans boil over.

[RELATED: Fire done in by first-minute goal, fall to Rapids]

"We had an idea going into the game," Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp said. "You can't blame them. They want to support a team that's doing well on the field, and the last couple years, we haven't been able to get it done. For us, we hope they keep supporting us and recognizing that we're doing everything possible. 

"We're not sleeping well at night. We're coming in, it's miserable for us to be here not doing well, because it is our livelihood. Hopefully they'll recognize that and know we want to do well just as much as they want us to do well." 

Inevitable factors have painted the Fire (6-13-5, 23 points) in a harsher light than perhaps they deserve throughout 2015. In terms of team selection, losing players to injuries and international duty - a commonplace and harsh reality all MLS clubs can attest to - has become a talking point through the greater portion of 24 games. But defensive errors and lapses in concentration in key moments - amid the undoubted effort on display - leave the Men in Red searching for clues as to how to right the ship with just 10 fixtures remaining.

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Attaining some semblance of stability and consistency heading into the final stretch will prove vital. With wins coming at a premium, costly mistakes, much like the ones that multiplied in the build-up to Dillon Serna's tap-in at the back post 54 seconds in, won't suffice if the Fire are to pluck anything positive from an otherwise disheartening campaign. 

“We can’t give up the goal, they got the one chance early, and it’s unacceptable from our part,” Shipp added. “We wanted to come out fast and press them, and we got caught high up the field, and that’s not acceptable. ... “The way we’ve played this year, we don’t necessarily deserve to have any luck, but tonight, there were some times where I thought we were a little bit unlucky.” 

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.