Four Fire players wrap up international duty Tuesday night


Four Fire players wrap up international duty Tuesday night

Fire interim coach Brian Bliss will welcome four of his key players back to Chicago on Wednesday. 

David Accam (Ghana), Daneil Cyrus and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), and Matt Polster (United States Under-23s) all went the full 90 minutes with their respective national teams on Tuesday, the final day of the FIFA international window. Accam featured in the 1-1 draw with Canada at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. Cyrus and Jones featured 35 and 77 minutes, respectively, in the Soca Warriors' 2-1 win over Panama on Oct. 8, and were also involved in the team's scoreless draw against Nicaragua at Hasely Crawford Stadium.

Meanwhile, Polster and the U-23s avenged their disappointing 2-0 defeat to Honduras in the semifinal round of the Olympic qualifying championship with a 2-0 win over Canada in the third-place game in Sandy, Utah. Only a two-game, home-and-away series against Colombia next March now stands in the way of earning a berth in next summer's Olympics in Rio.

Polster helped Andi Herzog's men notch a perfect 3-0-0 record in Group A and featured in all five matches. The Fire rookie played the full 90 minutes in group stage wins against Canada and Panama, and the loss to Honduras. The 22-year-old also started and played 60 minutes in the U.S.'s 6-1 throttling of Cuba, and recorded an assist.

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“I’ve watched three of the four games so far that he’s played in in these qualifiers, and he's given a good account of himself," Bliss told reporters via teleconference Tuesday. "He’s shown a little bit of flexibility just like he has with us, and where he can play. He can play internally, he can play right back. They even used him in the last game in the second half as a right midfielder at some points. I’m not saying that’s his strong suit, but it’s showing a little bit of flexibility in his game, and he’s done well. So, kudos to him.”

The quartet's absence allowed Bliss to evaluate a batch of USL players during the bye week, and a couple of younger players from the Fire's youth ranks as well.     

“These first two days – yesterday (Monday) and today (Tuesday) – have been light in terms of, not the work load, but the actual bodies in training," Bliss added. "We’ve supplemented with one or two guys we brought in from our Academy team that do well, and have earned that opportunity to come in and help us. It just was dumb luck that this early part of the week has coincided with a break in high school with Columbus Day and the teacher's workshop. ... Those kids have done well, and the level of play in general has not dropped off with those guys added in."

[RELATED: Bye week allows Bliss to fine-tune Fire, observe trialists]

Bliss said he would closely monitor Tuesday's matches, and is hopeful that Accam, Cyrus, Jones and Polster will all return to Chicago without any injuries. The team will have a day off on Wednesday before reconvening on Thursday and Friday to prepare for the final road match of the season against D.C. United.

“His game is being played in D.C., so that’s great for us," Bliss said of Accam. "The travel time and the distance to get back to Chicago is light compared to when he has to travel to West Africa for games. ... Hopefully he performs well, and comes out of it injury-free. He’ll be expected to be back here tomorrow, and then we’ll get him into a [regeneration] program with the other guys on Thursday. ... We’re expecting that to be the model.”

NOTE: After succumbing to an 8-1 defeat at the hands of Germany on Oct. 6, Homegrown midfielder Collin Fernandez and the U.S. U-20s concluded the Four Nations Tournament with a 2-2 draw against Scotland (Oct. 9) and 3-3 draw against Mexico (Oct. 12).    

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.