Fire notes: Bliss urging Men in Red to play spoiler to Red Bulls


Fire notes: Bliss urging Men in Red to play spoiler to Red Bulls

When the New York Red Bulls (17-10-6, 57 points) walk into Toyota Park, and step onto the field to face the Fire (8-19-6, 30 points) for the third and final time this season, the thought of playing spoiler to Jesse Marsch's group would be a fitting conclusion in the eyes of interim coach Brian Bliss.

The last time the Fire tasted a home loss against the Red Bulls, Bob Bradley, the Men in Red's inaugural head coach and then-New York/New Jersey MetroStars marched into Soldier Field, and walked away with a 3-0 victory on May 14, 2005.

A Fire win against the Red Bulls, who've already clinched the No. 1 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, could shake up the MLS Supporters' Shield race on #DecisionDay.

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"That would be great," said Bliss, whose training session Wednesday was attended by newly appointed General Manager Nelson Rodríguez. "Obviously it would be a win, if we can win at home, for ourselves and for our fans who have supported us all year. There's nothing better than upsetting somebody else's tea party. If we can do that and play that role, I think guys can walk off the field and say they at least accomplished something at the end of the season."

Some notes from training...  

- Whether younger players enter the fold come Sunday's regular-season finale is still up for debate. Bliss was receptive to the notion when it was first broached prior to the Fire's convincing 3-1 win over the New England Revolution on Oct. 3. The likes of Homegrown midfielder Collin Fernandez, goalkeeper Alec Kann and others come to mind, but Bliss may be up against the wall.      

“I’d like to," Bliss added. "Look, the league is built for a reason the way it is and when you’ve got New York and Dallas fighting for the Supporters’ Shield, it’s tough to say, ‘Alright, I’m going to throw three guys in there.’ I think we’d be disingenuous to Dallas. I’m not even saying that the younger guys wouldn’t give the performance that a senior guy would.”

[RELATED: Bliss talks 2016 Fire roster outlook; CHIvNY start time pushed back]

- Two USL players were invited to train with the club this week: Saint Louis FC centerback James Musa rejoined after enjoying a stint during the previous international break; and Louisville City FC midfielder Charlie Adams was brought in as a guest player.

- Midfielder Razvan Cocis took a couple knocks in the 4-0 loss at D.C. United over the weekend, and was held out of practice along with defender Ty Harden and forward Mike Magee, who did not travel. Cocis should return to full training on Thursday.

- With the Fire missing out on the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six seasons and the 2015 campaign nearing its end, contract talks are fast approaching. Deals for Harden, Magee and midfielder Matt Watson are set to expire, and "a handful" of others have options that could be exercised. 

“I would say 50 percent, maybe, that are either out-of-contract or on an option, and 50 percent are guaranteed [for 2016]," Bliss said.

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.