Fire

Fire punished by late goal from Orlando in 'frustrating' loss

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Fire punished by late goal from Orlando in 'frustrating' loss

On a night when playoff hopefuls New York City FC and Montreal Impact each posted three goals in victories over the San Jose Earthquakes and New England Revolution, the onus was very much on the Chicago Fire to usurp Orlando City SC on Saturday night.

Results around the Eastern Conference have helped the Fire on many occasions, but the Men in Red - playing the Lions for the fourth time in all competitions - failed to produce a similar result, and saw their playoff hopes all but fade away. 

After a giveaway by Razvan Cocis in the defensive third, Brek Shea strode past Joevin Jones with ease en route to delivering a ball across the box to Darwin Cerén. Bryan Rochez took the ball off his foot and finished past Jon Busch in the 86th minute, which proved to be the difference on the night as the Fire (7-16-6, 27 points) slipped to a 1-0 defeat to Orlando City (9-13-8, 35 points) in front of an announced crowd of 20,280 at Toyota Park. 

"They hit the crossbar, had the goal; we had some near misses," Fire coach Frank Yallop said. "The final pass wasn't there for us. That's the story of the game."

[RELATED: Fire return home to face Orlando City SC]

The loss - the Fire's 16th of 2015 - leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table and nine points adrift of sixth-placed Montreal. After snapping a six-match winless streak with a 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City last week, Orlando City’s second win on the trot inches them closer toward breaking into the top six.

Yallop made just two changes from the side that fell on the road to the New York Red Bulls last time out. Busch replaced Sean Johnson in goal for his first start (all competitions) since the Fire's 3-1 victory over Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup on July 22. Cocis made his return and deputized for the suspended Matt Polster in central midfield.

Both sides struggled to develop a rhythm in the early going, and exchanged half chances until Orlando City midfielder Carlos Rivas clanged a side-footed effort off the crossbar in the 18th minute. Cyle Larin bullied Fire right back Daneil Cyrus off the ball, and squared to Rivas, who was unlucky not to punish the Trinidadian for his error.

Kennedy Igboananike and Harry Shipp were at the heart of the Fire's two most dangerous chances, forcing diving saves from Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall in the 34th and 38th minutes. 

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]

Following a tame opening 45, the second stanza provided much of the same back-and-forth. The visitors did well to keep the hosts out as Cocis was on the receiving end of an Igboananike cross in the 61st minute, seeing his ensuing header batted away by Hall.

As the half wore on, Adrian Heath's unit stood firm against the Men in Red's persistence while attempting to break on the counter attack. In the 67th minute, Larin was released into space and freed himself in the box, but sent a harmless effort toward goal. Rivas supplied Larin a minute later, but the rookie's one-time effort trickled past Busch's left post.

Four minutes from time, Orlando City broke the deadlock. Shea, Cerén and Rochez - all second-half substitutes - exploited the Fire back four, with Rochez finishing from close range to help Orlando City snatch all three points.

"It's just frustrating," Yallop added. "I feel really bad for the guys. We work hard, we do the things that, I feel and we feel as a group, are good enough to get more points in the table than we're getting. It's very frustrating right now. We seem to find every sort of opportunity to give goals up."

[MORE FIRE: Matt Polster to represent U.S. in Olympic qualifying]

Next up for the Fire is a midweek clash against the Montreal Impact on Sept. 23, the third and final meeting between the two teams.

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2) - Jon Busch; Daneil Cyrus, Ty Harden, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Patrick Nyarko (Mike Magee, 85'), Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens (Jason Johnson, 85'), Harry Shipp (Gilberto, 71'); David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike.

NOTE:

- Two players were ruled unavailable prior to kickoff: Eric Gehrig (heel) and Sean Johnson (shoulder pain) will both have MRIs next week to determine the extent of their injuries. 

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.