Fire's late rally falls short in narrow loss to Red Bulls


Fire's late rally falls short in narrow loss to Red Bulls

The Fire came close to staging a late rally in the second half, but were unable to complete the comeback in a narrow, 2-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park on Sunday.

Two first-half strikes from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, despite Gilberto's second-half tally, were enough for the Red Bulls (18-10-6, 60 points) to clinch an away victory and raise the MLS Supporters' Shield trophy in front of an announced crowd of 19,850.

Interim head coach Brian Bliss made his statement clear regarding the Men in Red’s poor mentality during last week’s 4-0 defeat to D.C. United, and implemented a handful of personnel changes, with goalkeeper Alec Kann deputizing for Jon Busch. Matt Polster replaced Lovel Palmer at right back, Chris Ritter - who came off in the 21st minute with an apparent head injury - stood in for Daneil Cyrus at center back and Patrick Doody returned to left back in place of Joevin Jones, who occupied a wide midfield role in place of David Accam. Matt Watson also relieved Michael Stephens in central midfield. 

[RELATED: Fire stress mental approach ahead of season finale]

In his first MLS start, Kann's nerves were put to the test early on with a flurry of sloppy clearances in the opening minutes. The 25-year-old was kept in check by the Red Bulls, and was forced into his first save on Wright-Phillips' effort in the seventh minute.

Ninety seconds later, a familiar scenario came back to haunt the hosts. Kljestan drove in a corner-kick delivery to Damien Perrinelle, whose flick-on header was sent to the back post to an unmarked Wright-Phillips, who tapped in for an early Red Bulls lead. 

Ten minutes before the halftime break, the visitors doubled their advantage. Fire veteran Patrick Nyarko was adjudged to have unlawfully pushed down Mike Grella in a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge in the box and conceded a penalty kick in the process, which Kljestan coolly slotted past Kann for his third tally from the spot in three meetings between the two teams this season.

[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]

After maintaining 59 percent of possession in the opening 45, the Fire emerged from the halftime interval with their backs still against the wall. Gilberto showed more conviction in front of goal, sending a bending effort toward Robles in the 56th minute before collecting a long ball from Doody at the edge of the area in the 68th, chesting down and volleying a shot toward Robles, who did well to parry aside.

Second-half substitute Accam ringed a side-footed shot off the post in the 73rd minute before Gilberto's persistence was rewarded five minutes later. Doody streaked down the left flank and sent a looping ball toward the back post. Nyarko headed down for the Brazilian to acrobatically finish past Robles from close range to cut the Red Bulls' lead in half.

Despite throwing numbers forward in the latter stages, Bliss' group was unable to pull level. At the sound of the final whistle, some players stood in agony, others strolled around the field applauding the fan base. By the end of the night, the Fire (8-20-6, 30 points) were left disheartened, but perhaps lifted by the notion of what may lie ahead under new leadership.

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

Alec Kann; Matt Polster, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris Ritter (Daneil Cyrus, 21'), Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko, Matt Watson (Kennedy Igboananike, 84'), Razvan Cocis, Joevin Jones (David Accam, 58'); Harry Shipp; Gilberto    

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.