Fire

Homecoming 'weird' for Harry Shipp

Homecoming 'weird' for Harry Shipp

Entering Saturday's match between the Chicago Fire and the Montreal Impact, much of the talk was about Harry Shipp's return to Toyota Park.

The Lake Forest native's trade from Bridgeview to Quebec in February was the most headline-grabbing move of the Fire's offseason, but by the time Didier Drogba and Ignacio Piatti scored second half goals to turn a halftime deficit into a road victory, Shipp was no longer the story of the game.

That's how things are going for Shipp in Montreal. He's not the focus of the Impact's attack, like many wanted him to be with the Fire, but he has still started all six matches and is a part of an Eastern Conference-leading team.

"Here we have so many talented guys and I just get to be a good role player and help the team win and that's what I've been doing the last six games and luckily it's worked out for us," Shipp said after Saturday's 2-1 Montreal victory.

Shipp had a couple chances to make even more headlines with a goal in his return, but he hit a sizzling shot just over the crossbar midway through the first half and was denied from close range by Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson in the second half. Shipp's first half shot sailed towards Section 8, the Fire's supporters' group, which served as a symbolic hello from Harry to his former fans.

After the match ended Shipp walked behind the south goal at Toyota Park and talked to some friends. This had been part of his routine for the past two years, but during those years he was doing it as a Fire player. Now he was the visitor.

"Being back the first time I always think it's going to be weird," Shipp said. "Once the game started I wasn't necessarily thinking about that. I think being here and walking out it was a little bit surreal I guess is the right word. For me once the game starts you're just playing soccer and you're doing your best to get three points for Montreal.

"It's nice to have friends, family, people I've known for forever here back, people that I just met since I started playing professionally here or just fans I would see after every home game. To kind of have their support after the game was nice and you don't get a lot of that with fans in Montreal in terms of me recognizing them because it's all so new to me. It's kind of nice to be back and have some familiar faces."

Another thing was probably a bit different for Shipp: the result. The Fire had dropped a lot of games late in Shipp's two years with the club. Now Shipp was on the winning end of a late goal thanks for Piatti's goal, which came in added time.

"Halftime it wasn't a great feeling being down to your former team, but to come back and get the win 2-1, it was a big win for us," Shipp said.

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.