Fire

Fire trade Harry Shipp to Montreal Impact

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Fire trade Harry Shipp to Montreal Impact

New Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez has made wholesale changes to the club's roster in his first year at the helm, but on Saturday morning Rodriguez may have made his biggest move to date.

Saturday, the Fire traded Harry Shipp to the Montreal Impact for a combination of both general allocation and targeted allocation money.

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Shipp became the Fire's third Homegrown Player in franchise history in 2014 after a standout collegiate career at Notre Dame. Shipp tallied seven goals and six assists in his MLS rookie season, and finished second in the MLS Rookie of the Year. His numbers dipped to just three goals and eight assists in his sophomore season in 2015.

“Pauno and I met with Harry on Saturday to give him the news,” Rodríguez said in a statement from the club. “Harry is a homegrown player and an obvious fan-favorite, which makes this trade more emotional than most. However, we believe this trade will prove to be beneficial for our club and for Harry’s career.”

The lack of a player in return likely means the Fire's offseason moves aren't as close to completed as it may have seemed in the past week. The roster appeared to be solidifying after the Fire's preseason camp in Tampa, but Shipp's exit could mean more moves are on the way before the March 6 season opener.

Collin Fernandez, who turned 19 on Saturday, could be in line to receive more playing time at the attacking midfield position. Fernandez, also a Homegrown Player, has just one MLS appearance in his career. In addition, the Fire likely wouldn't move a player of Shipp's caliber without receiving a player in return unless the money received was going to open things up for another player to come in.

Once the move becomes official, Shipp will become the first Fire homegrown signing to play for another MLS club. Shipp was also one of just two players on the current roster to have been with the Fire since the start of 2014. Now only Sean Johnson has been with the Fire since the start of the 2014 season.

Rodriguez has said multiple times throughout the offseason that adding an international central midfielder to the Fire was the second priority after acquiring center backs. International players Joao Meira and Johan Kappelhof have come in at center back, but no foreign midfielders have been added. On Jan. 14, just after the MLS SuperDraft, Rodriguez referred to the type of midfielder that the Fire were looking for was "very hard to find domestically." That implication always sounded like an attacking midfielder given the lack of playmakers in the American player pool.

After the final two rounds of the draft on Jan. 19, Rodriguez clarified the team's position on central midfield.

“If and when we close the center back spot we want to address central midfield," Rodriguez said on Jan. 19. "Now again, we’ve got some great in-house options, Harry Shipp, Matt Polster, Drew Conner, but those are very young players so we’d like to add veteran presence in the center of midfield as well to help us. That scenario we’ll be looking at. We’ve also had some young international players that we’re spying quite closely who we think have great potential and could fit in well with what we’re doing."

Perhaps the Shipp trade signals the move for one of these young international players to join the Fire.

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.