Influential Johnson gives Fire momentum amid difficult stretch


Influential Johnson gives Fire momentum amid difficult stretch

Following last week’s confidence-boosting result against the Dynamo amid harsh conditions in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium, Patrick Nyarko’s instant impact off the bench helped the Chicago Fire walk away with a deserved point. This time, the influence of Jamaican forward Jason Johnson lifted the Men in Red to their first-ever win over Seattle Sounders FC.

The 24-year-old entered proceedings in the 65th minute, replacing the Ghanaian and linking up with fellow second-half substitute Michael Stephens to produce a stoppage time winner and lift all 18,528 at Toyota Park to their feet. It was the Fire’s first league win since a 3-0 mauling of the Montreal Impact back on May 30. 

“It was a good ball from Mikey Stephens and a good counter attack,” Johnson told reporters in a buoyant Fire dressing room. “I had one thing on my mind and that was to shoot. Even before the ball was played, my mind was set and I’m thankful it went in for me tonight.”

[RELATED: Jason Johnson's late goal gives Fire late win over Sounders]

Since joining from the Dynamo in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Alex on April 13, Johnson’s seven appearances with the Men in Red — six as a substitute — manifested glimpses of what the Virginia Commonwealth University standout is capable of: imposing himself onto defenders, utilizing his speed and, against Columbus Crew SC on May 22, using his head.

A 92nd-minute equalizer to secure a second consecutive draw against an Eastern Conference opponent at the time was his first goal in a Fire jersey. For Frank Yallop, Johnson's display Saturday night to prevent the Sounders from standing alone atop the Western Conference was liberating, and it all went according to plan.

“I said get on the right wing, cut in and shoot it in the far corner,” Yallop joked, after being asked what instructions he gave Johnson before his insertion. “No, I just said, “Make a difference, get up and down wherever you’re playing. Get dangerous; we need a goal. Do whatever you need to do to get it onto your left foot and get a strike off.”

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“We were going to go with three in the back, but we decided to go with JJ up front. Great run. For us this season, it was a wonderful goal. We’re very happy for him, he’s a lovely kid as well.”

The team enters the second half of the MLS season with next week’s home fixture against the Crew, which signals the first of 14 remaining matches against Eastern Conference foes to close out the campaign. As for what a first win in nine previous attempts against Sigi Schmid’s delegation can do for a still struggling Fire, Johnson believes an uptick in form could follow after taking a solitary point from their last five league games.

“What does that do for the team? I think it’s great; a great team effort tonight to get a win and get us back on track for the next couple of games. It’s good momentum for the team to get a few more wins in the next week." 

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.