Fire succumb to slow start, fall to Crew SC


Fire succumb to slow start, fall to Crew SC

Behind a stalwart performance from Sean Johnson in goal, the Chicago Fire slipped to their 10th defeat of the season Wednesday night, falling to Columbus Crew SC, 1-0, in front of an announced crowd of 14,092 at Toyota Park.

A 41st-minute goal from Kei Kamara was all that was needed, as head coach Frank Yallop's unit, meanwhile, remained at the foot of the standings and had little to draw on despite entering the match following an encouraging win over Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders FC just four days prior.

"Probably the worst we’ve played, the first half," Yallop said after the match. "Not happy from the endeavor and the fight of the team, which I felt we had in the last five games but tonight it wasn’t, especially in the first half. The second half we had a bit of a go. We were totally out-played tonight.”

After plying his trade in the center of the midfield and forging a partnership with Razvan Cocis of late, rookie Matt Polster retreated to center back in place of Adaílton, who'd been suspended because of yellow card accumulation. Thus, Chris Ritter earned a starting place in Yallop's midfield. With just over an hour under his belt over the weekend, Patrick Nyarko was restored to the bench to allow Michael Stephens to acquire his first MLS start since the Fire's 3-1 defeat to D.C. United on June 3.

[SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey]

Crew SC applied significant pressure to the Fire defense early, spending the majority of the opening 45 minutes in the Men in Red's defensive third. The Fire continued to absorb pressure as the half wore on, relying far too much on Johnson to keep the visitors out.

Federico Higuaín and Kamara combined twice in the opening 10 minutes, a trend that continued throughout the evening, as the Sierra Leone international got in behind the Fire back line on multiple occasions and forced numerous saves from an alert Johnson.

Kamara's diligent work ethic eventually produced the breakthrough with four minutes remaining in the first half, getting on the end of an Ethan Finlay cross to head past a helpless Johnson to notch his third goal in two games against the Fire, and league-leading 13th on the year, while Finlay notched his 11th assist of 2015 on the play.

[RELATED: Fire set for back-to-back matches against Columbus]

Following the halftime interval, Yallop brought on Jason Johnson, David Accam and Patrick Nyarko to inflict some damage on Crew SC. A Harry Shipp free kick in the 76th minute and Accam's right-footed strike nine minutes from time were the lone chances for the Fire in the second half before Ted Unkel's full-time whistle left the Men in Red frustrated with yet another home defeat.

The two sides assemble again in four days, as the Fire travel to the Arch City in the third and final meeting of the season on Sunday.

"Every game’s different," Yallop added. "If we score early then the game can change and be different. They’ve come in here and played quite well away from home. We’ve played well away from home to at least get a couple of wins, but it wasn’t to be. Talk is cheap. Whether we’re depleted or not we got to find a way to do it.”   

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Matt Polster, Patrick Doody; Michael Stephens (Patrick Nyarko, 58'), Chris Ritter (David Accam, 72'), Razvan Cocis, Harry Shipp; Mike Magee (C), Kennedy Igboananike (Jason Johnson, 58').

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.