Fire

Fire lose late lead, but eliminate Columbus in draw

Fire lose late lead, but eliminate Columbus in draw

In a familiar story, the Chicago Fire gave up a late goal that denied a win at home.

The Fire had come back from a halftime deficit against the Columbus Crew to take a lead into the final 15 minutes, but couldn’t hold on in a 2-2 draw.

After going down a goal in the first half, an own goal and Michael de Leeuw’s fifth goal of the season gave the Fire a 2-1 lead against their rivals from Ohio. Adam Jahn’s second goal of the match tied things up in the 80th minute.

A frustrated Veljko Paunovic spoke of how disappointed he was that the team couldn't win a game for the fans who have "suffered too much."

“I think we all know where we are," the Fire coach said. "I think we could see improvements in our team and things that we still have to get better. I think that has been the whole year the same process, the same things to do to improve. Still a long way to go.”

Jahn’s first goal came on a counter. Justin Meram hit a perfect through ball to Adam Jahn and Jahn beat Sean Johnson to make it 1-0 in the 13th minute.

That was the only shot on target for either team in the first half.

David Arshakyan replaced John Goossens at halftime. Goossens was one of the most active Fire players in the first half, but the tactical shift seemed to help the Fire's attack. Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter even credited Arshakyan for causing problems for Columbus.

The Fire (6-16-10, 28 points) were able to tie things up in the 53rd minute when Michael Parkhurst deflected a ball into his own net after the Fire tried to find David Arshakyan, who subbed on at halftime, in the box.

Four minutes later Arturo Alvarez cut inside on a defender from the right wing and centered a ball to Michael de Leeuw, who was open in front and able to easily score with his first touch.

“Obviously Arshakyan brings a different dimension to the game," Alvarez said. "He’s a big guy, a big presence on the field. I think in the first half we had some looks as well, but unfortunately they didn’t go our way. It was a good tactical shape. We made sure that we took advantage of his size and it opened up a little bit of space for the guys on the wings.”

[MORE FIRE: Young midfielder Collin Fernandez in search of playing time]

Jahn evened things up with a hard-hit volley soon after a corner kick to make it 2-2 and set up an exciting final 10 minutes. Columbus (8-12-12, 36 points) needed a win to stay alive in the playoff race and sent everybody forward, including goalkeeper Steve Clark for the final two minutes, but could not find a goal. The Fire had a number of chances on a counter, but could not convert either.

“I think obviously with two home games left in the season, to not get a win the first one out of the two to end the season is a little disappointing," midfielder Matt Polster said. "Just to give our fans something and to kind of finish the season off strong,"

Columbus is eliminated from playoff contention a year after hosting MLS Cup.

The Fire close out the home schedule Sunday against New England.

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.