Fire

Fire lose seventh straight on the road, fall at FC Dallas

Fire lose seventh straight on the road, fall at FC Dallas

Playing the league-leaders on the road with some key starters not making the trip in the heat of mid-July in Dallas was not a good formula for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire were thumped at FC Dallas 3-1 on Saturday to extend the team’s road losing streak to seven matches.

Fire forward Kennedy Igboananike actually had the first good chance of the match. Matt Polster was able to spring him free down the right wing and Igboananike had an open shot in the box, but his effort was hit straight at Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez.

After that, FC Dallas (12-6-4, 40 points) took over. The Fire (4-9-5, 17 points) didn’t get another shot on target in the first half and Maxi Urruti and Mauro Diaz scored before the first 45 minutes concluded.

[MORE: Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez hints at potential summer moves]

Fabian Castillo weaved his way through two Fire defenders and then hit a rabona cross to Urruti, who headed in the goal in the 23rd minute. Then Diaz doubled the lead with a highlight-reel shot from outside the box that hit the inside of the far post and went in.

Arturo Alvarez, who came on as a second half sub, gave the Fire some consolation by curling in a free kick in the 91st minute. However, any last ditch comeback efforts were quickly snuffed out when Dallas' Mauro Rosales scored 66 seconds later. Castillo picked up his second assist with a centering pass from the left to an open Rosales in the box.

The two-goal margin is the Fire's second loss by more than a goal this season.

Coach Veljko Paunovic continued to rotate the Fire squad during the current busy stretch in the schedule with five matches in 15 days. After Rodrigo Ramos, Johan Kappelhof, Kennedy Igboananike and John Goossens didn't start in the 1-0 win against Sporting Kansas City, Paunovic rested more key players on Saturday.

With the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal coming up on Wednesday, Paunovic elected not to have regular starters Sean Johnson, Jonathan Campbell and David Accam make the trip to Dallas in the middle of summer.

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Considering that the Fire have the fewest points in Major League Soccer and Dallas has the most, not to mention that the Fire haven’t won on the road in two years, Dallas was already a heavy favorite in this match. The Fire’s squad rotation with the U.S. Open Cup coming up is a pragmatic move from Paunovic, even if it meant Saturday’s match wasn’t much of a contest.

That U.S. Open Cup match against the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers is up next for the Fire, with a 7:30 p.m. scheduled start at Toyota Park.

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.