Fire

Igboananike named to Team of the Week; Shipp up for Goal of the Week

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Igboananike named to Team of the Week; Shipp up for Goal of the Week

Kennedy Igboananike's goal and assist in the Fire's 3-0 dismantling of the Montreal Impact merited a place in Major League Soccer's Team of the Week on Monday, while Harry Shipp's 13th-minute bullet is in the running for Goal of the Week. 

On the heels of their sixth home game of the Major League Soccer regular season, the Fire procured their fourth win on Saturday thanks to the Nigerian's Man of the Match performance and the Homegrown midfielder's opener, his first goal since March 22 vs. San Jose.

Since collecting two assists in the Fire's 3-2 win over Toronto FC eight weeks ago, Shipp's productivity in the goals and assists columns has fallen flat in recent matches. But the Lake Forest native's star-studded outing corroborated head coach Frank Yallop's overt predilection for entrusting the 23-year-old with free rein in the middle of the park.     

[SHOP: Get your Fire gear right here]

"The last couple games, I got kind of caught in the routine of being outside and just being aware of defensive responsibilities, and kind of blindly running up and down the right side," Shipp said after the match. "This week, I really wanted to focus on going back to getting all over the field. 

"I think you saw that in the first half: when the ball was in the left side, I came across and got the ball in the middle, because I'd much rather have the ball in the middle of the field near the goal than on the outside. So I think I did a better job of just finding little spaces to receive the ball."

Meanwhile, Igboananike translated his industrious play from setting up the 2014 Rookie of the Year finalist to converting a strike of his own - a composed finish in the 72nd minute and his first for the Men in Red - which aided in pacifying some of the scrutiny directed at the forwards' impotence in front of goal of late. 

"His best thing he did today was probably pressure and work hard," Shipp added. "You saw that on the goal I scored: he won the ball off Baky [Soumare] and played it in. He's an unselfish guy, and I'm happy to see him get a goal; it was long overdue and well deserved.

"I think we were playing all right without him, but having him is another weapon going forward. I think if you can get him and David [Accam] and myself and Shaun [Maloney] clicking on the same page, we'll hopefully be pretty hard for a front four to stop."

[MORE: Shaun Maloney called up to Scotland, will miss trio of Fire matches]

That front four has accounted for six of the Fire's 14 goals, on par with the six scored by three defenders: Jeff Larentowicz (4), Joevin Jones (1) and Adailton (1). Despite stomaching a rocky start to his Fire career under Yallop's watchful gaze after joining from Swedish outfit AIK Stockholm last December, Igboananike hinted his second half goal might've just been the springboard for what lies ahead in his ongoing transition to life in Chicago and MLS.   

"I never played my best game yet," he said. "I think more is about to come, so just starting to get used to the players and getting used to everything around me so I think I’m getting better and better every day.”

Hear what else Shipp and Igboananike had to say in the video above. Also, be sure to cast your ballot for Shipp's goal in the Week 13 Goal of the Week here. Voting runs until 11:59 pm PT on Thursdays. The winner will be announced on Friday. 

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.