Fire

Fire score late to salvage home draw against Orlando

Fire score late to salvage home draw against Orlando

For once, the Chicago Fire were the team to score a late goal and change the result.

Unfortunately for the Fire, they scored that late goal after they were already trailing at home. Razvan Cocis’ 78th minute header gave the Fire a 2-2 draw with visiting Orlando on Sunday.

John Goossens gave the Fire an early spark, but Orlando’s big players came up with big plays in the first half. Goossens pinged a shot in off the post from outside the box for his second goal of the season.

However, for the third game in a row the Fire (4-11-7, 19 points) gave up a goal soon after scoring one. Three minutes later Cyle Larin held off Jonathan Campbell to get a touch on a bouncing ball in the box and tie the game for Orlando (5-6-12, 27 points).

"I think these are the things that we have to improve again," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We don’t have to be afraid when we have a good result in our hands. We have to manage better.

The Fire opened the match with a three-man backline consisting of Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell and Eric Gehrig. Orlando’s counter to that was to have Kaka play out wide left where he saw a lot of the ball and with time and space. The Fire adjusted, moving Kappelhof to right back and shifting Brandon Vincent to a more defensive position at left back in a flat back four.

However, that didn’t stop Orlando or Kaka. The Brazilian gave the Lions the lead in the 32nd minute on a rebound after a Larin header hit the post.

“Obviously we had a lot of issues on the right side with Kaka," Paunovic said. "Very good by (Orlando coach) Jason Kreis, very smart moving him on the sideline. I think also we struggled there. Once we did our adjustments, switching to 4-2-3-1 and putting Kappelhof, our maybe most experienced guy in our defense, against Kaka. We were able to stop him. When I say stop him, I know what I am saying because it’s very difficult to stop Kaka. We all know who is Kaka, but I think he did a great job."

Cocis saved the Fire from a defeat by heading in a Brandon Vincent cross following a short corner in what was a wide open game. The Fire held an 8-7 edge in shots on target.

"I think at least this time it was a good and better reaction in the second half," Cocis said. "We stepped up higher in the field, which was great, and it feels good when I see that we can be there. We can be higher up the field, dominate the opponent and stay there. As you saw even after we scored the second goal, we could have scored the third one.

The Fire extended their home unbeaten run to 10 matches.

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A win could have brought the Fire closer to the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, which Orlando currently is tied for, but instead the Fire remain eight points back. Sunday’s match was an opportunity to gain three points on the team they were chasing. Instead, it’s another missed opportunity.

The Fire’s next game is at Montreal on Saturday.

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.