Fire

Fire look to extend unbeaten streak at New England on CSN

Fire look to extend unbeaten streak at New England on CSN

The perception of the Chicago Fire has changed drastically in the past three months.

The days of the Chicago Fire's road winless streak that endured from the end of 2014 through most of 2016 are gone and now the team enters a road game at New England with expectations of winning, and they aren't far-fetched.

The Fire visit the New England Revolution on Saturday hoping to extend a current eight-game unbeaten streak which includes Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup win at Saint Louis FC. Coverage begins on CSN at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

On this date last year the Fire had a 2-5-5 record and didn't show much sign of progress in Veljko Paunovic's first year. Now as a second-year coach, things have changed for Paunovic and the Fire (8-3-4, 28 points).

 

"We flipped the situation from the last year 180 (degrees)," Paunovic said last week. "Last year at this point we were probably second from the bottom and now we’re second from the top. That’s something that shouldn’t be casual and we shouldn’t take it for granted. Everyone contributes to that, especially the players, the whole organization and the club. Our fans who are great helping us here coming and we have every time when we play at home we feel like we have our fortress, our home. We are strong here. We just have to translate that when we play on the road. I think we are getting there. We are not changing our style when we play on the road and we can see that the other teams are respecting us. It’s the long work in progress and it’s very nice to see that there are some good performances.”

While Wednesday's win in Missouri against a minor league team isn't the greatest proof of the Fire's improvement on the road, the team is also unbeaten in three straight MLS road games.

New England, like the Fire and other teams in MLS, has a vastly better record at home as opposed to on the road. The Revolution (5-5-5, 20 points) are unbeaten at home (5-0-2) and winless on the road (0-5-3). The Fire are unbeaten at home (7-0-1) and have one win on the road (1-3-3). So while things have changed for the Fire this year, a draw would still be a positive result.

Both teams are coming off a win in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday. New England beat Rochester 3-0 and sat the likes of Lee Nguyen, Juan Agudelo and Kei Kamara while other key players in Diego Fagundez, Gershon Koffie and Kelyn Rowe came off the bench. The Fire played a lineup of mostly regulars at Saint Louis FC, including Dax McCarty in his return from the national team, but rested Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Accam, Nemanja Nikolic and Joao Meira.

These two teams already played this year in Schweinsteiger's third game in a Fire uniform. He scored and Nikolic had two goals in a 3-0 Fire win after New England suffered a red card in the first half.

"When we played against Atlanta (last week) we said that for us is the payback," Paunovic said on the Fire's website. "Now we believe that New England feels the same about us because of the way we won here."

There is one big name on the injury report for either team, New England midfielder Xavier Kouassi. The designated player will be out with a hamstring strain. The Fire will be without goalkeeper Jorge Bava, who hasn't started since April 29 and has elbow tendinitis.

Chicago Fire at New England Revolution

TV: CSN Chicago

When: Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

Records: Fire (8-3-4, 28 points), Revolution (5-5-5, 20 points)

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.