Fire notes: Johnson back to his best; Adaílton surgery update


Fire notes: Johnson back to his best; Adaílton surgery update

If there's anyone who's feeling the pressure of eight, consequential Eastern Conference fixtures bearing down on his team, Fire coach Frank Yallop certainly is one to understand the weight of Saturday night's clash against the Montreal Impact.

When the two sides converge at Saputo Stadium - the second of three meetings between the Impact and Fire in 2015 - both teams, which sit one and two points below the red line, respectively, can ill afford to throw away any more points with a little under two months remaining in the regular season.   

"We know it's a big game," Yallop said after training Thursday. "This one seems bigger than most because we need to get three points and so do they. ... No better time than to start this weekend in Montreal."   

With three first-choice starters out this weekend from last week's 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC - David Accam, Joevin Jones and Matt Polster - the rigors of the FIFA international window will well and truly test the technical staff's nerve to experiment with depth, particularly in the fullback positions left void through Polster and Jones' absence.

"We've got some options," Yallop added. "I think our squad's pretty strong. We've lost some players to international duty, but it gives an opportunity to other guys to get a chance to play. I have full faith in them to play well and do well."

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Sean Johnson earns 'deserved' call-up to U.S. national team

After a rocky start to his sixth season with the Men in Red, niggling injuries hindered the play of goalkeeper Sean Johnson, so much so that veteran Jon Busch was called upon to deputize for the 26-year-old seven times between mid-March and mid-June.

Since June 13, Johnson has started 12 consecutive games as the Fire's No. 1. Sprawling saves in recent weeks warranted several MLS Save of the Week nominations, performances that caught the eye of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and justified a call-up to the U.S. national team camp.

“Sean had his differences at the start of the season, but lately, he’s been getting back to his best,” said Yallop, who spoke to Klinsmann a few weeks ago, who opened the door to have another look at the Atlanta, Ga. native. “Jurgen’s been watching that, and he deserves that spot.”

Johnson will depart following the Fire's road match against the Impact, and will replace William Yarbrough as the third goalkeeper on the 23-man roster. Yarbrough, who plies his trade with Club León, will back up Brad Guzan and Tim Howard for Friday night’s match against Peru before making way for Johnson to join ahead of next week’s friendly against five-time World Cup champions Brazil at Gillette Stadium.

[RELATED: Matt Polster adopts utility role in rookie season with Fire]

Adaílton surgery update 

Since playing all 90 minutes of the Men in Red’s 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution at Toyota Park, Adaílton’s lingering adductor issues were compounded following his operation on Tuesday.

The Brazilian centerback underwent a core muscle repair procedure - essentially equivalent to sports hernia surgery - and will be out of action for around six to eight weeks, the club announced.

“If you look at the New England game where he could have reached out and cleared the ball, he didn’t, I think, because of his groin," Yallop said of the Revolution's second goal on July 25, which spotlighted Adaílton's role in failing to clear his lines. "It was kind of after that that we really got to the bottom of it and he said he’s struggling. 

“He was injured and out, and he was always nursing it. It got to a point where [he said] ‘I can’t continue; I’ve been trying to do this thing.’ … His performances were starting to get worse."

[MORE FIRE: International window forces Fire to compensate for absent starters]

New trainee

Despite the close of the MLS summer transfer window, Yallop could still be keen on adding to his roster: 

Though rules prevent the acquisition of foreign-based talent, teams are entitled to go after out-of-contract players until the roster freeze deadline on Sept. 15. Möllering has spent the majority of his career in Regionalliga, the fourth tier in German soccer, and is currently not under contract.

For now, Yallop could only confirm the 25-year-old is "just training" with the club. 

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.