Fire

Gilberto brace not enough as Toronto FC rallies to beat Fire

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Gilberto brace not enough as Toronto FC rallies to beat Fire

For glimpses of Saturday's encounter between Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire, Brian Bliss' group appeared to show the endeavor necessary to procure the team's first away win from home since July 2014. 

For large stretches of the first and second half, however, Greg Vanney's delegation showed why, amid a pressure-filled season, it is in contention to secure its first postseason berth in club history. A first-minute strike from Gilberto and another from the Brazilian on the other side of halftime was canceled out by tallies from Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore as the Fire (7-18-6, 27 points) fell, 3-2, to Toronto (13-13-4, 43 points) in front of 22,513 at BMO Field.      

The defeat - the Fire's 18th of 2015 - leaves them rooted to the foot of the Eastern Conference table and officially eliminates them from playoff contention, while Toronto remains in fifth place, two points back of fourth-placed D.C. United and five points clear of the playoff red line with four games to play. 

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Bliss showed three changes from the side that lost to the Montreal Impact midweek, with Mike Magee earning his first MLS start since July 15 in place of Kennedy Igboananike. Daneil Cyrus and Michael Stephens rounded out the alterations, deputizing for Ty Harden and Razvan Cocis, respectively.

The visitors got off to a dream start, with Stephens making an immediate impact and supplying Patrick Nyarko for the Fire's first attacking sequence. Nyarko took a few touches before threading an inch-perfect pass behind the Toronto defense for Gilberto, who, making his first appearance against his old team, powered home a left-footed effort past goalkeeper Chris Konopka for an early 1-0 lead.

In the ensuing 44 minutes, the hosts heaped on the pressure, outshooting the Men in Red by a 10-1 margin and maintaining 67 percent of possession. Sebastian Giovinco was the crux of several of Toronto's attacking moves before finally breaking through a compact Fire back line a minute shy of the half-hour mark.

After muscling Cyrus off the ball to earn a corner kick, the Italian delivered a moment of magic, curling a cross with the outside of his boot for Osorio to meet at the back post, which was headed in from close range to send both sides into the halftime break level at 1-1.     

[RELATED: Fire battle Toronto FC]

Seven minutes into the second stanza, Gilberto came back to haunt Toronto once more. After Bradley overcommitted in the hosts' defensive half, Nyarko was allowed to turn and connect with Magee, who, with one touch, sprung the Brazilian down the middle. Gilberto made no mistake, burying a well-placed, right-footed shot off the inside of the post and in to help restore the Fire's lead in the 52nd minute.

Seven minutes later, following a chested clearance off the line from Marco Delgado and another goal-bound effort from Gilberto that creeped by Konopka's left post, Toronto pulled level at the other end. Bradley waltzed into the area and evaded challenges from multiple Fire defenders en route to dispatching a deflected shot past Busch.

Ten minutes from time, Toronto sealed all three points with a near post flick-on from Altidore.  

With three matches in seven days in the books, the Fire will have a full week to gear up for their third and final meeting against the New England Revolution on Oct. 3.  

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1) - Jon Busch; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Daneil Cyrus, Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko (Joevin Jones, 55'), Matt Polster (Razvan Cocis, 67'), Michael Stephens, David Accam; Mike Magee (Jason Johnson, 74'); Gilberto.  

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.