Fire still finalizing roster in final week of preseason


Fire still finalizing roster in final week of preseason

It's the final week of the preseason, but there are still a number of questions surrounding the Chicago Fire's roster.

While it doesn't sound like there will be any new major signings of players not currently in camp, there are decisions to make regarding trialists and potential loans to affiliate Saint Louis FC.

For example, even after John Goossens has been a standout performer in the preseason, coach Veljko Paunovic remained mum on his status.

"Obviously you saw the game, he performed very good," Paunovic said during his weekly conference call with media on Monday. "What I can say right now is his status as a trialist is still the same and if something changes about him, we will let you know.”

[MORE: Must-see: Goossens' volley goal]

The Major League Soccer roster compliance date of March 1 sets a firm deadline for teams, but Paunovic did tease that there could be some announcements in the next week ahead of that date. He added that there will "probably" be some players loaned to St. Louis, but that they want to see how players perform this week. Other than that the first-year coach didn't give much away.

"Obviously we have some guys and trialists who we will try in different positions for the games to come so we can have a better insight of what they can bring to our team," Paunovic said.

Paunovic was complimentary of the central defense pairing of Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira. Both players are new to the league and are from different European countries, which made their first game together a challenge. Paunovic said they did well against Vancouver on Sunday given the circumstances.

On the tactical side, Paunovic spoke about the team's high press. It created the first goal against Vancouver, with a Matt Polster takeaway giving Goossens the ball just outside the box before he scored.

"There were a couple of times where we had sets of two or three minutes of the high pressing and where we scored one goal," Paunovic said. "We scored the first goal and we pushed Vancouver a couple of times into an uncomfortable zone with the possession they tried to have. That was very, very good. We have to work on that still.”

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Brazilian newcomer Rodrigo Ramos has joined the team in Portland and Monday will mark his first full session with the team. Paunovic said he wants to see him play in at least one of the two remaining preseason games, but that will depend on his fitness.

Also, David Accam sat out the game on Sunday due to illness. Paunovic addressed his status.

“He has some issues and we didn’t want to make him push hard for this game even though he is recovered now," Paunovic said. "We are working on his fitness and he is doing great. He is very engaged this preseason and we have a special approach for him knowing that he had issues earlier."

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.