Fire 'roll with the punches,' earn clean sheet against Dallas


Fire 'roll with the punches,' earn clean sheet against Dallas

The Fire extended their winning streak against FC Dallas to four consecutive games Sunday night, topping Óscar Pareja's side, 2-0, in front of 14,209 at Toyota Park.

David Accam's sixth goal in his 13th regular season appearance for the Men in Red and Shaun Maloney's 85th minute penalty kick proved to be the difference on the night, as Frank Yallop's men claimed their first league victory since a 1-0 triumph over then-Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC, leaving Dallas winless against the Fire since October 13, 2011.

"Fantastic win for us," Yallop told reporters after the match. "To get a clean sheet in the end was important, under a bit of pressure at the end. I thought we did enough to win the game. We were dangerous on the break and could've scored more.

"We rolled with the punches tonight against a good team that is going to attack us and open us up, but I thought we could've scored five goals on the break. ... It proved tonight that we're not a bad side against a very, very good team in Dallas. We deserved to win."

Following last week’s 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, the Fire showed three changes. Adaílton, whose blunder resulted in the Revolution’s second and game-tying goal, made way for Jeff Larentowicz to reclaim a starting position at center back alongside Eric Gehrig. After missing the last three matches to regain fitness, Lovel Palmer made his return to the side to replace Matt Watson, meaning Matt Polster was restored to the center of the midfield to partner with Razvan Cocis. Jason Johnson rounded out the alterations, standing in for Kennedy Igboananike up top.

[RELATED: Fire square off against high-flying FC Dallas]

The hosts got off to a dream start, seeing Jason Johnson and Accam combine in the fourth minute to give Yallop's outfit a fourth-minute lead. Johnson released the Ghanaian into space, who beat defender Matt Hedges to the ball and slotted a low shot through the legs of Dallas 'keeper Dan Kennedy and into the back of the net for a team-leading sixth strike of the campaign. 

Despite gaining early momentum, the tide appeared to have shifted as the visitors reclaimed a majority of possession. In the 27th minute, Dallas nearly caught the Men in Red sleeping. A free-kick delivery fell to Victor Ulloa, who hooked his shot from the top of the 18 narrowly wide of Sean Johnson's right post, the most worrying of a string of half chances that Yallop's group was able to safely fend off going into the halftime interval. 

Emerging from the opening 45 with just 38 percent of possession, the Fire continued to be pinned back by Dallas, but saw the better chances fall their way. Three minutes either side of the hour mark, it was the presence of Johnson, the nifty footwork from Maloney and the unrelenting play of Accam that unnerved the visitors.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]

Accam wrestled the ball off a Dallas defender in the box and found himself with only Kennedy to beat, but fired a tame effort into the palms of the Dallas netminder. Maloney dribbled a ball toward the endline six minutes later, cutting back for Johnson, who blasted an effort off Kennedy's chest.

In the 77th minute, Cocis slammed a one-time shot from distance that forced another save from Kennedy, before the Fire were reduced to 10 men following a studs-up challenge from second-half substitute Matt Watson on Rolando Escobar at midfield.

The shorthanded Men in Red displayed a different level of fight from games past, however, getting the most out of substitute Kennedy Igboananike, who, five minutes from time, was brought down in the penalty area by Kellyn Acosta. The Nigerian's tenacious work rate allowed Maloney to step up to convert his second spot kick in as many matches to help the Fire top a Western Conference foe for the second time in three weeks, and climb out of last place in the Eastern Conference.

"The back four and four midfielders in front of them were excellent," Yallop added. "We worked a lot on shape, getting in the right spots and staying with runners, especially against a team like Dallas who have tons of pace and ability. ... We defended very well tonight as a group."

Next up is a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers on Aug 12. The match is slated for a 10 p.m. CT kickoff from Providence Park. 

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer (Matt Watson, 68'), Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster, Shaun Maloney; David Accam (Patrick Nyarko, 88'); Jason Johnson (Kennedy Igboananike, 66'). 

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.