Fire wrap up draft with defender Campbell, midfielder Morrell


Fire wrap up draft with defender Campbell, midfielder Morrell

The Chicago Fire have included all the MLS terminology in the club's draft day trades.

After dealing top pick Jack Harrison for No. 4 pick Brandon Vincent and general allocation money, the Fire dealt a player to be named later to Seattle for the No. 15 pick and more allocation money. The Fire then flipped that No. 15 pick, the No. 33 pick and the top spot in the league’s player allocation order, used for incoming U.S. national teamers and former MLS players returning from foreign leagues, to Colorado for the No. 12 and 22 picks and the second spot in the player allocation order.

Colorado likely had a player in mind by trading up, and the Fire may not have been interested or been able to acquire that player. In essence, the Fire were able to move up a bit in the draft without giving up an asset they were going to be able to cash in on. Once Colorado takes a player from the allocation order, the Fire will move back up to the No. 1 spot.

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At No. 12, the Fire drafted North Carolina defender Jonathan Campbell. Campbell is a 6-foot-2, 188-pound center back who was the first UNC player to earn both first team All-American and Academic All-American honors in the same season this fall. He spent this past summer playing with the Seattle Sounders U-23 PDL squad.

With all the moves Campbell admitted on a conference call with media that he didn’t know where he was going to be drafted. Even as his agent was texting him updates, Campbell didn’t see them because he had his phone on silent. He had talked to coach Veljko Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez in advance of the draft.

“We had a good talk at the combine,” Campbell said. “We talked a lot about player development. We also talked about some situational things, but I thought the player development talk was good. He talked to me briefly about setting up individual plans for the players to see them grow, but then also in broader terms.”

On the live draft stream Matt Doyle of said Campbell struggled during the MLS Combine, but had proven enough throughout the college season to warrant a spot in the first round. He played as part of a three-man back line for the Tar Heels, which Campbell said helped improve his versatility.

[MORE: Fire trade No. 1 overall pick Jack Harrison to NYCFC]

“I think they drafted me as a center back, but it does show that I can be a versatile player,” Campbell said. “We played three in the back. I played on the outside of that, in the middle of that. I think that kind of speaks to my athletic ability that I’m not just a big guy in the middle and I can’t really move. For me I think it will help. It always helps to be versatile.”

Campbell was the third UNC player taken in the first round, following Omar Holness (No. 5 to Real Salt Lake) and Jordan McCrary (No. 10 to New England). The Fire previously drafted UNC players Logan Pause and Jalil Anibaba.

At No. 22, the Fire took North Florida midfielder Alex Morrell. Morrell has a smaller build at 5-foot-7, 135 pounds, but is noted for his speed. He picked up Atlantic Sun First Team All-Conference honors this season. He had four goals and seven assists in 18 games this fall and finished his career with eight goals and 19 assists.

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.