Fire

Fire: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City

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Fire: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City

With just over a third of the 2015 MLS season gone, all four of the Chicago Fire’s victories have come against Eastern Conference opponents. Having played one more game, each of Orlando City SC’s three wins have come against Western Conference opponents. 
 
Despite jumping out to a 1-0 first half lead, the Men in Red crumbled in a disappointing second half display in the 3-1 midweek defeat to D.C. United and saw their three-match unbeaten run come to an end. The Lions, meanwhile, had to rely on late heroics from Pedro Ribeiro to help salvage a 2-2 draw against Columbus Crew SC last weekend, which helped them extend their unbeaten streak to three games.
 
Nestled in seventh and eighth position in the table, respectively, and on relatively equal terms with 14 points apiece, the two sides fittingly converge for their first-ever league encounter on Saturday (7:30 p.m. on CSN) at Toyota Park.
 
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An earnest Frank Yallop, who described the 3-0 drubbing of the Montreal Impact as a game his side “had to win," alluded to his comments made earlier in the week, imploring his side to produce a carbon copy performance against Orlando while reiterating the importance of winning at Toyota Park.
 
"Any time you're at home, you want to win," Yallop said after training on Friday. "We're the same as every other team in this league - we have to win home games. I think we've played well enough to maybe win a couple more, but in the end, we've looked pretty good at home. We're pretty dynamic, especially lately, and [we've] push teams to their limits."
 
Saturday's clash against Adrian Heath's outfit marks the Fire's fifth in a string of seven consecutive matches against conference adversaries. The visitors will be without midfielder Brek Shea, among others, who was summoned by Jurgen Klinsmann to compete in upcoming international friendlies for the United States. The Fire will also be without the services of Designated Player Shaun Maloney, who won't return from international duty with his native Scotland until after the Men in Red's away fixture at the New England Revolution on June 13.
 
Still, Yallop was pleased with Homegrown midfielder Harry Shipp's cameo in the No. 10 role underneath forward Quincy Amarikwa, who ran onto an exquisite through ball supplied by the Lake Forest native to eventually set up David Accam for the Fire's opener at RFK Stadium. It was another sign of the 23-year-old's awareness in the final third and guileful movement that continues to ask questions of the Men in Red's opposition.
 
"Harry plays infield anyway, he's never wide," Yallop said. "So whether he starts from a wide position, he slides and plays his football inside. Harry's done fine."
 
[MORE: Igboananike named to Team of the Week; Shipp up for Goal of the Week]
 
If the Fire have any hope of rekindling the conviction harvested from two separate unbeaten streaks this season, Yallop knows the drop-off in pressure that resulted in the three-goal swing against D.C. must be rectified against Orlando.
 
"The plan was to keep doing what we were doing [in the first half]," he said. "We didn't have good movement off the ball [in the second half] and made poor decisions on the ball. It cost us. We had a crazy 20 minutes where they scored three goals.
 
"That's football. They're a good side, and we couldn't handle what they were doing. It's about us now. We've got to make sure we let that one go and learn from it. All around, it's never easy. It's a growing process, but we've done okay."
 
Leading the firing line for the Lions will be 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Kaká. The Brazilian midfielder leads the team with six goals and two assists, and will be accompanied by Eric Avila and Danny Mwanga either side of him, along with 2015 MLS SuperDraft first pick and Canadian international Cyle Larin. The 19-year-old out-and-out striker has notched four goals in eight starts and complements an attacking force that is hitting its stride.
 
"Attacking wise, they're a good side and a well-balanced team," Yallop said. "But we've got some good attacking players, too."
 
Hear what else Yallop had to say after training Friday in the video above ahead of the match vs. Orlando.  

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.