Fire

Fire look to keep advancing in Open Cup against Columbus

Fire look to keep advancing in Open Cup against Columbus

Back-to-back road losses in Major League Soccer were a reminder of how far the Chicago Fire has to come to move up the league standings, but Tuesday offers an opportunity for the Fire.

The U.S. Open Cup match against the Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m. kickoff streamed live on chicago-fire.com) is a chance for the Fire to get something positive going this season. The round of 16 match is at Toyota Park and a quarterfinal, against either Orlando City or the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, would also be at Toyota Park if the Fire get there.

In order to get to that quarterfinal, the Fire must get by a familiar Crew squad. The two teams played to a scoreless draw in Bridgeview on March 19.

“They are always consistent in their style,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said on Monday. “It’s going to be for us one of our main challenges to stop them and take the possession from them.”

Columbus will have a different look from the team that visited the Fire in March. Prolific striker Kei Kamara has since been traded to New England and replaced by Ola Kamara, no relation. Playmaker Federico Higuain is out after undergoing hernia surgery. Those two made up the core of the Crew’s attack last season.

“They’ve had some adversity,” Fire defender Eric Gehrig said. “The trade with Kei and Higuain is out now with surgery so they’re a limping team, but they’re a team that gets after it. They know their style. They’re dangerous. They still have a lot of weapons. The new Kamara has been banging some goals for them and I think they’re just a team that, whether it’s Open Cup, whether it’s a friendly, whether it’s an MLS game, they really get after it so it’s going to be a good test. Obviously a good rivalry for the two cities and it’s an Open Cup game so there’s a lot on the line.”

The Fire didn’t have David Accam in that March 19 meeting with the Crew. That game was the first in a string of six matches the Ghanaian missed. He scored in Philadelphia on Wednesday and has four goals and two assists in seven matches in MLS play. In addition, he scored the equalizing goal in extra time in the Open Cup opener against Indy Eleven and converted the clinching penalty.

Expect Paunovic to play another near full strength lineup like he did in the first Open Cup match. As for Columbus, coach Gregg Berhalther heavily rotated the squad against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, a 4-0 win in Columbus. Berhalter may go with more regulars against an MLS team on the road.

One player the Fire will be without is midfielder Matt Polster. Paunovic said that Polster, who has been a limited participant in training, will not play Tuesday due to his concussion suffered against Indy Eleven on June 15, but could return for Friday’s match against San Jose.

“Obviously the Open Cup is huge for this club and the legacy we’ve had with it so we’re taking it very seriously and preparing well,” Fire defender Brandon Vincent said.

The match will be streamed live on the Fire's official website (chicago-fire.com) with Dan Kelly on play-by-play and Paul Tenorio subbing in for Frank Klopas as color commentator.

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.