Fire look to extend shutout streak to set club record

Fire look to extend shutout streak to set club record

The Chicago Fire have a chance to set a defensive club record on Saturday.

After setting a new club record for most goals conceded in a season (58) just last season, it may be hard to believe it’s a positive defensive record the Fire are on the verge of setting.

Yet with 356 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal, the Fire are just 39 minutes away from the longest streak in club history (395 minutes).

That’s a far cry from the moment the streak started. When Orlando’s Cyle Larin scored just four minutes into the Fire’s second match of the season, the Fire looked more likely to challenge last year’s defensive record than go on a long shutout streak. When Larin scored the Fire had allowed five goals in 94 minutes, but nothing has gotten past goalkeeper Matt Lampson since.

“I think it’s been consistency from our whole team and team defending,” Lampson said. “There’s been a serious passion for not letting goals in and you can see it in every game. The effort that every guy, particularly in the back four has put in to not let the other team score. No shots, no crosses. That’s the reason why we’ve been so successful and hopefully as we continue to grow we’re going to maintain the same mentality.”

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It must be said that the Fire’s attack has gone into the tank the same time the defense has improved. That might not be completely coincidental. With David Accam injured coach Veljko Paunovic might be sending his team out slightly more conservatively in the hope of grinding out a low-scoring win.

However, the Fire are confident in the way they talk about this streak.

“I think it’s just individual accountability and taking pride in it,” Campbell said. “With everyone working to get back and doing their part in it, it makes it so much easier. Then the communication and everything falls into place, but with all the new guys having everyone work at the same rate and work to get back on defense it really helps collectively.”

After some shuffling in the first few matches, Paunovic has sent out the same defenders in front of Lampson for consecutive games. Rookie center back Jonathan Campbell has been paired with Johan Kappelhof, 20-year-old Brazilian Rodrigo Ramos has stepped in at right back and MLS veteran Michael Harrington has slid over to left back after starting at right back in the first two matches.

Those defenders, as well as Joao Meira and Brandon Vincent who have also received starts, and Lampson were all brought in during the offseason.

“We’ve all come in at the same time, we’ve all grown up together, we’ve all made mistakes together,” Lampson said. “Hopefully you want to make mistakes and win, but when that happens you’re going to grow and you’re going to be a successful defensive team and it starts from Gilberto (a forward) up top all the way down to me.”

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.