Fire

Fire notes: Rumors, David Accam update, Johan Kappelhof honored

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Fire notes: Rumors, David Accam update, Johan Kappelhof honored

Everyone is happier after a win.

Certainly Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was in his weekly conference call with the media on Monday. Paunovic’s call went longer than normal and he spoke about tactical changes, gave up update on David Accam’s injury status and talked about upcoming opponent New York City FC.

One of the more notable quotes from Paunovic came when asked about Sunday’s match and the Fire trying to get even with NYCFC after losing 4-3 in the first match of the season.

“What I am going to say now I want you to understand well from the standpoint of somebody that is very competitive,” Paunovic said. “We had our honor hurt here when we wanted to win, our presentation to our fans, and we lost the game against New York.”

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Paunovic also spoke about the tactical switch to move back to a four-man defensive line against Philadelphia.

“I think we needed more possession,” he said. “(Playing) with 4-2-3-1 helps our team feel more comfortable on the field when we want to have more possession. That helped a lot and this is why we decided to play with this and it went well. I believe we improved, but we still have to improve more in our possession and our patience and recognition when we have to progress.”

The Fire earned a second straight shutout in the 1-0 win against Philadelphia and for the first time this season had most of the possession. Defender Johan Kappelhof was named to the MLS Team of the Week, the first time a Fire player has earned that honor in 2016.

One continuing storyline early this year has been the health of David Accam. Accam has missed the last two games. Paunovic said his availability for Sunday remains uncertain.

“He’s still not a full go,” Paunovic said. “I will say he is recovering very well. He is in the final phase. We will see day-by-day how he performs and if he can be ready for this game.”

On the rumor mill, Dutch attacker Michael de Leeuw admitted in an interview with a Dutch publication that the Fire have been in talks with him since the winter. The 29-year-old plays for FC Groningen, where Kappelhof joined the Fire from in February.

This is likely connected to general manager Nelson Rodriguez’s recent comments about the Fire having signed a contract with one player and are close with another. It sounds like de Leeuw could be the player the Fire are close with.

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.