Fire notes: Razov ROF induction, CHIvNE preview, Nyarko fit


Fire notes: Razov ROF induction, CHIvNE preview, Nyarko fit

Saturday's Eastern Conference bout at Toyota Park between the Fire and New England Revolution is an opportunity for the Men in Red to salvage self-pride from a displeasing season.

But for the fans who have endured the ups and downs in recent years and remember the team's successful run during the early 2000s, a special halftime ceremony will accompany matchday proceedings to commemorate a player who championed the club's three, core values: tradition, honor and passion.

Former Fire Original and forward Ante Razov will become the eighth inductee into the Ring of Fire, and will be joined by fellow members Peter Nowak (inducted in 2003), Frank Klopas (2004), Luboš Kubík (2005) and Peter Wilt (2006). The image of his No. 9 jersey, in which Razov netted a club-record 76 goals in two stints in Chicago, will hang from the east façade of the stadium for all to see.

“He was ice-cold around the box. He could finish," Fire interim head coach Brian Bliss said Thursday. "When we talk about guys whose pulse goes up around the box, I think his went down in the box. He was calm, cool and could bury the difficult shot, but he could also hit the precision and placement shot as well. Decent size, always, and could get his head on a few balls as well. We all like lefties, so anything a lefty does always looks better.”

A key component of head coach Bob Bradley's group in 1998, Razov helped the Fire win MLS Cup and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the inaugural year. Razov currently serves as the assistant coach for Seattle Sounders FC.  

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Preview: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (Saturday, Oct. 3; 7:30 p.m. CT on My50 Chicago)

With postseason aspirations out of the picture, the Fire return to Toyota Park for the penultimate home match of the 2015 campaign.

Having just two days to work with players prior to a two-game road swing (a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact and 3-2 defeat to Toronto FC), Bliss is more reassured this time around after getting a full week of training under his belt. 

“I’d call it a luxury, yeah,” he said after training Thursday, “because we’re able to implement a little bit more on the mindset. We’re not moving mountains in the short amount of time, but we’re trying to get the collective group to be thinking in the same way about the game, and about how we want to play the game. You’re not going to execute everything, but if we can get the majority thinking the same way, it’s very helpful.”

The Fire's 21-19-11 all-time regular season record against the Revolution includes a 12-5-8 record in fixtures played at home. Saturday marks the third and final meeting between both sides this season. Jay Heaps' group dealt the Men in Red a comprehensive 2-0 defeat in Foxborough on June 13 before escaping from Toyota Park with a point in the teams' 2-2 draw on July 25.

[MORE FIRE: Accam, Cyrus, Jones called up for international friendlies

Injury update

- Midfielder Patrick Nyarko emerged from the setback at Toronto with a knock to his knee, but will be fit and available against New England. "He took two days off here to take the pressure off a little bit," Bliss said. "He came back out today (Thursday) and looked fine.”

- Defender Ty Harden was a late scratch with an adductor strain, and will be held out of Saturday's encounter vs. the Revolution. “He probably could suit up, but I don’t think it makes sense to run him out there," Bliss said. "We’ll give him the extra time needed, and hopefully he’s available for selection the next game.”

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.