Fire take on Real Salt Lake in home opener

Fire take on Real Salt Lake in home opener

There was much anticipation surrounding the pairing of Juninho and Dax McCarty in the Chicago Fire's midfield.

The official start of the partnership had to wait an extra week after Juninho served a red card suspension in the Fire's season opener after being sent off in his last game in Liga MX with Tijuana.

The two are expected to start next to each other in the Fire's home opener Saturday against Real Salt Lake. CSN will televise the match with coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

Juninho said he was not expecting the suspension at all and having to watch the Fire’s season opener, a 1-1 draw at Columbus, was uneasy for him.

"It was not easy to be out and watch my guys from outside," Juninho said. "I'm not used to it. I prefer being on the field and helping than just watching. It was very frustrating for me that day. When I got the news it was the worst day."

Juninho's delayed debut comes when the Fire are down two midfielders already. The Brazilian is expected to step into the starting lineup alongside McCarty, taking the place of the injured John Goossens. Matt Polster remains out with a knee injury.

"I've been waiting for it," Juninho said of his Fire debut. "I'm preparing myself to be in a great shape, to be on the field on Saturday. I know what I can do with my team and all my teammates with the club. We know what we can do this season."

Forward David Arshakyan, who came off the bench late at Columbus, is also listed as out on the injury report with a thigh strain.

The Fire will take on a Real Salt Lake team that is a bit thin at defensive depth at the moment. Justen Glad got injured while playing with the U.S. under-20s as that team won the CONCACAF qualifying tournament. Another center back, Chris Schuler, will also not travel for RSL. Aaron Maund is also on the way back from a hamstring injury and has been limited as well.

RSL drew Toronto 0-0 last weekend in Utah with goalkeeper Nick Rimando saving a penalty kick in the first half. The Fire last won a home opener in 2012.

"For next game it's very important we have to create the atmosphere for the players who feel good about it, but also excited and give their best," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We have to create a good atmosphere. Expectation. It's a start for us at home, home opener. We got to make that notice in our game, in our play and that's what we are going to try to do."

Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

When: Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live


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.