The Fire's full 2017 schedule is announced


The Fire's full 2017 schedule is announced

Thursday was Major League Soccer schedule day. The league released the 2017 schedule for all 22 teams.

The Chicago Fire already knew the season was opening at Columbus on March 4 followed by a March 11 home opener against Real Salt Lake, but the rest of the schedule was announced.

While specific broadcast information is still to come, CSN Chicago is once again the home of the Chicago Fire in 2017.

The full schedule is available here. For the second year in a row the Fire will have a stretch of home games early in the schedule. In 2016, the Fire had five of the first seven matches at home. This year the Fire will have four of the first six at home, with RSL, Montreal, Columbus and New England set to visit Toyota Park by April 15.

The Fire will not play in Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the regular season. Atlanta is playing at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium in the beginning portion of the season. The Fire's third match of the season is at Atlanta and is the only regular season match at Atlanta.

After that stretch of home games, the Fire will have a three-game road trip at Toronto FC, the New York Red Bulls and the LA Galaxy, all playoff teams in 2016.

The Fire will host the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders on May 13.

Orlando City is opening its new stadium in 2017. The Fire will head there on June 4.

Later on in the schedule is a potentially tough stretch of three matches in eight days beginning at Philadelphia on Sept. 23, traveling to the West Coast for a match at San Jose on Sept. 27 before heading back home to host New York City FC on Sept. 30.

The final home game is Oct. 15 against Philadelphia and the final match is Oct. 22 at Houston. The match against Houston will be the only inter-conference match in MLS on the final day of the regular season. The league is having every team play on the same day to add potential drama to any playoff races. However, with an odd number of teams in both conferences there has to be one inter-conference matchup. The Fire and Houston get to be those teams on the final matchday.

With two expansion teams the league is now at 22 teams. That means there are eleven games out of conference and 23 in conference. The Fire will play Columbus, Montreal and New England three times and every other Eastern Conference team twice. The Fire will host New England twice and take two trips to Columbus and Montreal.

As for Western Conference opponents, the Fire will host RSL, Seattle, Colorado, FC Dallas, Vancouver and Minnesota and visit the LA Galaxy, Portland, Sporting Kansas City, San Jose and Houston.

The Fire will have only two weekday home games after having five at home in 2016. Both will be on Wednesdays in May. In general, the Fire will play five matches on Wednesdays, down from the seven Wednesday/Thursday matches in 2016.

There will be two and a half weeks between matches in July to break for the Gold Cup this summer. The Fire's only home match in July is the first day of the month. They will return home on August 5.

Sean Johnson's return to Toyota Park could be on Sept. 30. The longtime Fire goalkeeper is now with New York City FC. NYCFC plays the Fire on July 22 at Yankee Stadium before that September match in Bridgeview.

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.