Fire trying to stay positive and focused for final third of season

Fire trying to stay positive and focused for final third of season

As things stand now it looks like the Chicago Fire are headed for another year without playoffs.

The Fire are in last place in all of Major League Soccer with 19 points and after Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal defeat, a clear positive thing from this season and something to look forward to in the later part of the season is now gone.

The Fire’s playoff chances are slim, sitting eight points out of the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 matches to go. Despite the dreary outlook, midfielder Razvan Cocis said the mood in the team hasn’t dropped.

“We had a tough week,” Cocis said after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Orlando. “Not the greatest. We lost two games, we lost in the cup, which hurt us a lot. It’s still hurting us, but we talked about it and we just have to keep going. There’s just no other way. We talked about who wants to be in the locker room and who wants to keep going. Then he needs to stay, he needs to work more and more in the practice session to get better and be better as a team, as individuals.”

After Cocis said this during the postgame press conference, Veljko Paunovic jumped in with an unsolicited comment to emphasize the desired mentality for the rest of the season.

“We said there are only two ways here,” Paunovic said. “One is not acceptable, which is abandon. The second one is we continue working hard, we work together and we have to keep the spirit and the positiveness in our group, which is very important because this is all a process and this is all great opportunity for us all to become better professionals and for sure better people because these kind of challenges are very important and we have to appreciate this opportunity actually.”

[SHOP: Need a Fire home jersey? Get one here]

Even if the Fire fail to make the playoffs as expected, it would be notable if the team has a solid run down the stretch. Actually winning a road game, something the team hasn’t done in more than two years, would be a positive and should be one of the team's goals the rest of the season.

Players like Luis Solignac, who was very active in the final third after subbing on Sunday, and David Arshakyan, who is still awaiting his visa, can impress down the stretch to give the Fire’s roster a better outlook heading into 2017.

“We need real men to step up,” winger David Accam said. “Obviously we are down, but we can’t stay down. We need everyone to step up and I think today most of the guys stood up and they showed real character. So at the moment it’s good.”

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.