Fire

Fire: Maloney out vs. D.C.; Jones, Accam train separately

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Fire: Maloney out vs. D.C.; Jones, Accam train separately

Following the heavy blow sustained in the 3-2 defeat to Orlando City SC under two weeks ago, Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago) and David Accam (Ghana) were called in for international duty and each missed a pair of matches: last weekend's 2-0 loss to New England Revolution and Tuesday night's slender win over Louisville City FC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Shaun Maloney, away with Scotland, also hadn't featured for Frank Yallop's side since the 3-0 rout of the Montreal Impact. The Men in Red's No. 10 played all 90 minutes in a blistering UEFA Euro 2016 qualifier just three days before logging 51 minutes in his Open Cup debut.

Entering the match as a second-half substitute, the 32-year-old's night was cut short and had to be replaced by Razvan Cocis in the first half of extra time, however. After initially being diagnosed with "slight back spasms" shortly after Tuesday's victory, Maloney - and the rest of the team - were given Wednesday off. Having then missed training Thursday and Friday, the Scotsman underwent an MRI on Friday that revealed a bulging disc, thus ruling him out for next week's Eastern Conference clash with D.C. United. 

[RELATED: Busch, Yallop react to USOC Round of 16 draw]

"It's good to have everyone back," said Yallop before learning of Maloney's ultimate diagnosis. "We've got a big game next Wednesday; we want to come out and win it. We should have David and Joevin back. David's come back a little twinged, that's why he trained by himself. He should be fine.

"Shaun's got a bit of a back issue at the moment. Other than that, we've got most of our guys back."

Friday morning's training session at the Toyota Park Practice Field signaled the return of two of the Chicago Fire's three Designated Players: Kennedy Igboananike (sinus infection) and Accam. The Men in Red were also bolstered by the sight of Jeff Larentowicz (groin) - named to the bench versus Louisville - who didn't feature on Tuesday, but resumed training. Alongside Jones and Magee (hamstring), Igboananike and Larentowicz conducted separate, technical drills with fitness coach Adrian Lamb aside from full training, while Accam jogged around the field, dribbling the ball from time to time.

Now, the ninth-placed Fire turn their heads to next Wednesday's meeting with Ben Olsen's outfit, which culminates a seven game stretch against conference opponents that began in the Bronx on May 15. Since amassing five points in the first three contests, the Men in Red have lost three straight in MLS play. Beginning with D.C., Yallop's group will set about a period of three games in a span of 10 days before fixtures begin to pile up in July and August. 

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"It's not bad until you get a few injuries and you go 'Uh-oh,'" Yallop added. "That's always the worry. You've got three games in a week and you've got a couple of guys out, and you say 'I wish we had a week to recover.' I think we should be full strength in the next game."   

In the meantime, the second-year head coach rewarded his delegation with a well-deserved day's rest on Saturday. Fourteen roster players, along with guests Anton Ferdinand and newcomer Simeon Jackson - both enduring training stays with the squad - split into four teams of four, and engaged in a competitive, small-sided tournament. The winners?

Jackson, recently released by Coventry City FC, was named to Canada's preliminary Gold Cup roster. Yallop and Marc Bircham, both well-acquainted with the 28-year-old striker, brought him in to help him prepare for the biennial tournament. Jackson will continue training with the Fire through all of next week before joining the national team before their Group B bout with El Salvador on July 8.

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.