Fire looking to offset 'uncharacteristic' midweek display


Fire looking to offset 'uncharacteristic' midweek display

In a span of four days, the buoyancy garnered from a fortifying home win against the Montreal Impact - a margin of victory last experienced in league play on October 4, 2013 - prefaced the disconsolate feelings left behind from the deflating midweek loss in the nation's capital to D.C. United.

For the Chicago Fire, a streaky team that's yet to establish a foothold in Major League Soccer, games continue to come thick and fast, with Orlando City SC's visit (7:30 p.m. on CSN) denoting the Men in Red's fifth in a chain of seven consecutive versus the Eastern Conference. With a perfect record against conference foes at Toyota Park, the onus is on Frank Yallop's side to generate a firm response.

"For us, now, any home game is a must-win, especially against an Eastern Conference team," said Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp Friday. "Orlando is a good team, but I think we've played - bar one or two games - really well at home. It bodes well for us and hopefully after we get a win this weekend, we figure out how to take our confidence at home out on the road for a 90-minute performance."

Despite a nimble interchange that emanated from Shipp and led to David Accam's third goal of the season - giving the Fire a befitting 1-0 halftime adavantage - the lead was swiftly erased by the Black-and-Red following a brace from Jairo Arrieta and Conor Doyle in a 14-minute spell. Shipp, elated at his side's staunch first half outing, was flummoxed by the change in attitude after the halftime interval. 

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"I thought for the first half, we played so well," he said. "We went into halftime feeling good. We controlled the tempo and limited their chances. In the second half, we did a lot of things that were pretty uncharacteristic: guys out of position, turnovers that we normally don't have.

"All of that in the first 15 minutes of the second half kind of snowballed. Luckily for us, we play again tomorrow. It's a chance - if we have a good game tomorrow - to win two out of the three this week, which would be a decent week for us. It almost is better that we play so quickly because you don't have to mull over stupid things that you did for a whole week."

In the absence of Designated Player Shaun Maloney, the 23-year-old embraced the No. 10 role behind Quincy Amarikwa on Wednesday. The 2014 Rookie of the Year finalist's foray into his free-flowing post at RFK Stadium demonstrated the considerable latitude he was given - creating space for himself and his colleagues - while showing glimpses of his attacking instincts and ability to seek out the imbalances in the opposition.     

"It's what I played for the first 16 years I played soccer," Shipp said. "It's nice to be back there, and be able to float and go where the ball goes. That's probably my favorite thing to do, which is to get the ball and make plays.

"That [position] allows [me] to do it, but when I'm outside, it's a totally different mindset. It almost took me the first five to 10 minutes of the D.C. game to switch out of being an outside winger where you're going up and down, especially defensively, having to get back in transition. I'm looking forward to hopefully play that role in the future."

[MORE FIRE: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City]

As the Men in Red approach their second of three matches without the aid of the Scotland international, the collective expectation will be much higher as Adrian Heath's outfit makes its first-ever trip to Toyota Park in search of its third away win of the season. The Fire's defeat to D.C. - their first of the season when scoring the first goal - was another example of a lead squandered. But Shipp, who's jumped out to two goals and four assists through 12 matches in 2015, is bullish on the team's know-how to mend the situation.          

"On the road, especially when we've been in positions where we've gotten leads, we've come out and tried to protect those leads too much," Shipp added. "You saw against Montreal, we took the lead, put our foot on the gas and kept going.

"It's something to learn. When we get a lead, there's no point in sitting back and just playing the ball long. All of that pressure you're absorbing eventually is going to pay off for the other team. It's something we really have to consciously work at and something that's definitely been frustrating for us in certain games, but luckily for us, it's something we can fix. We know we have the potential to keep the ball and play and press other teams." 

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.