Fire, Orlando City settle for draw in weather-delayed match


Fire, Orlando City settle for draw in weather-delayed match

The scene was set for the Chicago Fire to leapfrog multiple teams below the red line in the Eastern Conference standings Saturday night. With the Montreal Impact, New York City FC and Philadelphia Union all losing out in their respective matches, the Fire, with a win could've claimed sole possession of sixth place in the East.

After outlasting multiple weather delays and assuming a 1-0 lead at the half-hour mark, the Men in Red fell short of grasping their first road win of the season, however, instead settling for a 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC. David Accam's strike in the 30th minute - his team-leading seventh of 2015 - was followed up by an own goal from Eric Gehrig in the 37th minute, enough for the Fire (7-13-6, 27 points) to pull level on points with the Union and jump to ninth place, while Orlando City (7-12-8, 29 points) dislodged the Impact - temporarily - of the sixth and final playoff spot.

Head coach Frank Yallop trotted out the same lineup that got him a 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night. The only change was reflected on the bench, as defender Greg Cochrane returned from his loan stint with USL outfit Saint Louis FC to replace Mike Magee, who, per a coach's decision, did not travel with the team to Orlando.   

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Lightning strikes and booms of thunder in and around the area pushed fans inside the Citrus Bowl from their seats to the concourses several times before the match - scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. CT kickoff - resumed at 8:20 p.m. A crafty free kick in the 15th minute orchestrated by Accam and headed toward Tally Hall's frame was all there was to speak of before another lightning strike prompted referee Baldomero Toledo to send players and coaches back into the dressing room.

Play resumed around 9:45 p.m. in the 19th minute, with both sides continuing to set the tempo. It was Accam, though, who silenced the home crowd. The Ghanaian sped to save the ball on the endline with a quarter-hour left to play in the first half, cutting inside Orlando City right back Corey Ashe before sneaking a low shot inside Hall's near post to give the Men in Red the 1-0 advantage.

The lead was quickly snuffed out.

Seven minutes later, Lewis Neal sent an enticing delivery into the box to forward Cyle Larin. The rookie's flick-on header deflected off the head of Gehrig, looped up and over Sean Johnson's outstretched arms for the hosts' equalizer, later deemed an own goal.  

[RELATED: After win vs. RBNY, Fire crave encore performance at Orlando]

Heading into the halftime interval with less than 40 percent of possession, the Fire found themselves largely on the back foot throughout the second 45 and were fortunate to not concede. Adrian Heath's group spurned two golden opportunities late in the game - a Carlos Rivas shot from close range in the 82nd clanged off the post, and Darwin Cerén's stinging effort drew the save of the night from Johnson in second-half stoppage time.   

With the international window looming, the Men in Red will have to cope with two dropped points and missing players for their next Eastern Conference fixture. Accam (Ghana), Matt Polster (United States; U-23s) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago) will depart Orlando for international duty, and are set to miss the Fire's second match of their three-game road trip, a date with the Impact at Saputo Stadium on Sept. 5.   

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Matt Polster, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Patrick Nyarko (Harry Shipp, 60'), Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens, David Accam; Gilberto (Jason Johnson, 60'), Kennedy Igboananike.

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.