Fire

Five things from Fire vs. D.C.: One chance is all it takes

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Five things from Fire vs. D.C.: One chance is all it takes

For just the fourth time since 1997, the Chicago Fire completed a sequence of four consecutive losses - two at home and two away - in MLS play. It began in the nation's capital with a 3-1 defeat to D.C. United on June 3, and resumed three days later with a crushing 3-2 setback to Orlando City SC

Without David Accam, Shaun Maloney and Joevin Jones - all fulfilling international duty - the Men in Red then stumbled in a 2-0 loss at the New England Revolution on June 13.

Against Ben Olsen's side once again, Frank Yallop's group flubbed the chance to climb up from the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, leaving them without an MLS win in June.

Before the Fire wrap up the month and shift their attention to a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 fixture against Charlotte Independence next week, let's look at the five things to take from Wednesday night's 1-0 defeat to the Black and Red.

[RELATED: Fire suffer fourth straight loss, drop home tilt to D.C. United   

1. "The belief is there, the result and the product isn't." Those were the words of defender and captain Jeff Larentowicz following the Fire's second home defeat of 2015, a 2-1 decision against Western Conference outfit Real Salt Lake on May 9. Nearly seven weeks later, the same rings true. Barring the raw, season-opening performance at the LA Galaxy and uninspiring pair of defeats to Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the San Jose Earthquakes, the Men in Red have largely measured up to their opposite numbers through 15 games, but have had little to show for it in the points column.

2. 1-4-2. In a seven-match stretch against Eastern Conference opponents - which opened with a 2-2 draw to Jason Kreis's New York City FC on May 15 and culminated in Wednesday's downfall - the Fire pried four points from 21 available. It's led to a six-point gap between themselves and the coveted fifth playoff spot currently occupied by the New York Red Bulls, who sit on 20 points.

3. Detrimental absence of Shaun Maloney, David Accam. Let's face it. All three of Yallop's Designated Players haven't exactly hit their stride this season. But through 15 regular season matches, in only six have they all featured alongside each other. And, not to mention, not once have they all done so for a full 90 minutes. It's been a small component of the greater, niggling dilemma for the last-place Fire, who, needless to say, have yet to discover a like-mindedness.

Between Maloney, Accam and Kennedy Igboananike, the newly acquired trio may be at the forefront of some of the criticism directed toward the team in the latest spate of results, but Yallop insists on, first and foremost, getting his team to full strength. "We've got to keep going and I feel like we have enough talent on the roster to get it going, once we get everyone healthy and feel better," he said. "If, buts, and maybes don’t get it done.”       

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4. Sean Johnson in fine form. An infected right arm, eye laceration and injured hand kept the 26-year-old from securing a starting spot a third of the way through the season. Since veteran net minder Jon Busch took over the reins following the Fire's visit to the bronx mid-May, Johnson was in fine fettle as he recaptured the No. 1 jersey in the Men in Red's fourth-round Open Cup triumph over Louisville City FC. Yallop entrusted him with the responsibility against D.C., and the unfortunate injuries that hampered the beginning of his season seemed to be a thing of the past.

His flurry of first-half stops to deny Facundo Coria and Jairo Arrieta in the 19th and 24th minutes, followed by a diving save to thwart Bobby Boswell's header early in the second stanza kept the Fire in the game. That alert play, however, was blighted by an unstoppable bullet from Conor Doyle in the 73rd-minute.

5. One chance is all it takes. Doyle's goal rippled the net like arguably nothing anyone in attendance had seen for quite awhile at Toyota Park. And, regrettably for Yallop & Co., it was all that was needed for the visitors to walk away with three points in their pocket. It's another grating and familiar reality that continues to plague the Men in Red, which Yallop alluded to in his post-match press conference.

"D.C. is a group that sort of grinds through everything, they got some talent obviously but don’t get flustered with whatever happens in the match," he said. "I think they had one header and the goal. They didn’t have a ton of chances but that didn’t really matter to them. Our group seems like they need a lot of the chances to get one goal. I think we didn’t create enough to get that one goal."

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.