Fire

Fire to persevere in final stretch: 'Our leaders have not quit'

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Fire to persevere in final stretch: 'Our leaders have not quit'

The last time the Chicago Fire tasted a home defeat against the New York Red Bulls, Bob Bradley - who had helped the Men in Red capture the MLS Cup and two Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles between 1998 and 2000 - headed the then-New York/New Jersey MetroStars to a 3-0 victory over his former side in front of 8,341 at Soldier Field on May 14, 2005.

Needless to say, times have changed since even the likes of Chris Armas and Jesse Marsch - current members of the Red Bulls technical staff who featured that day - made their veteran presence felt in the Fire dressing room.

Ten years later, a new wave of leadership will be called upon to guide the Fire (6-13-5, 23 points) to a positive result against the Red Bulls (11-6-6, 39 points), who visit Toyota Park Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. CT; CSN+).       

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“Our leaders have not quit,” head coach Frank Yallop said Monday. “They’re vocal. They’re encouraging. We haven’t quit. I feel that the performances were good in this part of the season. We’re trying our best to put it right. Plus you’ve gone a goal down in a minute [against Colorado Rapids]. We could’ve crumbled and gave up, but we didn’t. We kept going. It says a lot for the guys on the field and the guys that are the leaders in Jeff [Larentowicz], Sean [Johnson], Jon [Busch] and Razvan [Cocis].”

Already facing mounting pressure heading into the final stretch of the season, the Men in Red - with two games in hand on the Philadelphia Union, Orlando City SC and New York City FC below the red line and five points back of the Montreal Impact - are still keeping playoff hopes in their sights. Having missed out on the postseason in four of the last five years, this year's run-in could be the most arduous yet.    

A home-and-home with Orlando City still to come, Wednesday's fixture marks the first of three late-season encounters with the Red Bulls, with games against Eastern Conference leaders D.C. United and playoff hopefuls Toronto FC, New England Revolution and Montreal on the horizon as well.    

“We’re not out of the playoff hunt yet, so you’ve got to go with your strongest lineup who you think is going to win games,” Yallop added when asked whether he would consider incorporating younger players into team selection. “Mathematically, we still have a chance.” 

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For the visitors, who've parted ways with Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill - among others - to rebrand with an influx of young talent, winning five of their last six regular season matches sees them nipping at the heels of D.C. and in pole position to make a run at the Supporters' Shield. 

From front to back, Marsch has assembled a unit worthy of making a deep run into the postseason, all while aiming to instill a revamped philosophy within the club, a dogged and aggressive style of play that few MLS teams have been able to defy. Wednesday's bout with the New York club will provide the Fire a template to work with before the clubs meet again on Sept. 11 and Oct. 25.        

“They’re a little more youthful, a little more team-oriented rather than individual now,” Yallop said. “They move the ball pretty sharply, and [Bradley] Wright-Phillips is a sniper. Not much has changed. I like Lloyd Sam, he’s a good player as well. They’ve got some good players and good weapons, and they seem to stay pretty healthy, which is always a key in our league.”

NOTE: Mike Magee, who underwent an MRI on his knee on Monday, is fine and available for selection, according to a club spokesperson. That leaves Adaílton, who received an injection to help his adductor strain, the only player currently on the team's injury list.   

Viewing information:

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

Kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

Broadcast: CSN Chicago Plus    

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.