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Fire's Matt Lampson hopes familiarity will help against Crew

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Fire's Matt Lampson hopes familiarity will help against Crew

Playing against a former team can stir up some strong emotions in professional athletes.

Some go about their business as usual, some get too excited and fall short of expectations and some fire up in a positive way and deliver consistently in that scenario.

Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson will face his former team, the Columbus Crew, on Saturday (4 p.m. CSN+) and find out how he will be affected when the game kicks off.

“I certainly want to play well, but I need to go out and perform to the utmost of my capability every game regardless," Lampson said. "It’s fun because you get to go against the guys you were playing with for four years, but nothing malicious, nothing deep-seated or anything like that. It’s going to be a fun experience and hopefully I can go out and show them that I can still play.”

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Lampson signed as a homegrown player for the Crew after a collegiate career at Ohio State. He played with the Crew for four years and made 16 appearances with the club. However, he wasn't in Columbus' plans going forward so both parties moved on after last season.

The 26-year-old said he holds no ill will towards his old team, but still talks about having something to prove.

“I think it was mutual from both sides that they didn’t see me in their plans and I needed to go somewhere and be able to play," Lampson said. "Certainly I think I’ve earned the opportunity here and hopefully I’ll go out on Saturday and show that I’m more than capable of playing at this level.”

While Lampson is saying all the politically correct things about taking it like any other game, his current coach, Veljko Paunovic, boasted about how he performed when playing former teams.

“I think it depends on how you manage that emotion that you may have in a game against your former club," Paunovic said "I’m sure that he has a lot of friends there and first we are professionals. If you manage those emotions in the right way it could be very helpful for you, for the team. It can motivate in the best possible way in order to perform well for our team. I’ll tell you in my career, almost every time I played against my former teams I scored goals. For me it was very motivational, but we have to manage it.”

[MORE: Fire's David Accam called up to Ghana's national team]

The Crew have started 0-2, but after making it to the MLS Cup final in December, expectations remain high. There's also plenty of attacking talent in the form of Federico Higuain, one of the top playmakers in the league, and Kei Kamara and Ethan Finlay, who are both coming off All-Star seasons.

Lampson's familiarity with these players could come into play when he faces one of them charging in on goal.

“I think it helps," Lampson said. "Tendencies don’t really change player to player and everybody scouts so we know what they want to do, what they try to do. They’re a very good team and we need to respect our opponent, but we also need to show them that we’re just as good and hopefully we’ll come out with a win.”

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.