Interim head coach Brian Bliss looks to bring stability to Fire


Interim head coach Brian Bliss looks to bring stability to Fire

Brian Bliss has been down this path before.

As he did in Kansas City in 2006 and in Columbus seven years later, Bliss – a former United States international and MLS defender – will step out of his wonted technical director role and into the technical area once again as the Chicago Fire look to salvage an inkling of hope – and points – in the few remaining regular season matches.

Tasked with domestic and international scouting, negotiating contracts and supervising cap management for six years as the Crew’s first-ever technical director, Bliss has upheld those same responsibilities since being recruited by Frank Yallop shortly after his hiring in 2013.  

But following the announcement of drastic coaching changes over the weekend – which signaled the departure of Yallop, and assistant coaches Marc Bircham and Clint Mathis, and the introduction of General Manager Nelson Rodríguez – Bliss was phoned by club owner Andrew Hauptman on Sunday and presented with the job of leading the Fire into the final stretch on an interim basis, alongside fellow interim assistant and current Vice President Logan Pause.

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“I’m just looking to get a little bit more direction, a little bit more stability, and focus on these next five games, and get a style and an atmosphere generated that can hopefully generate some wins,” Bliss said after training on Monday. “There’s no magic wand at this point, but there’s a formula to how I work and I believe it will breed some success. However, it’ll take a little bit of time to get it indoctrinated and get us going in the right direction.”

That formula will have to wait until Wednesday to be critiqued – the Fire march into Montreal to face the Impact at Stade Saputo – but the 49-year-old made no mistake in making his presence felt during his first training session. Bliss oversaw practice in its entirety, barked out his orders, offered constructive criticism to players and even allowed Pause to turn back the clock and join in the team’s full-sided scrimmage.

“I’m more hands-on,” Bliss said of his proactive approach. “I like to get in the middle of it. I think they need to hear my voice to be able to play as an extension of how I want them to play. That’s how I work.”

[RELATED: Frank Yallop dismissed as Fire head coach]

Though he remained noncommittal in regard to the potential of making the move from interim to full-time, Bliss was receptive to idea. Whether results in the next month warrant Hauptman and Rodríguez to put the opportunity on the table is another story.

“I’m here to try to help the club move forward in these next five games,” Bliss added. “If they think that I’m doing a good enough job and want to talk about a future role in this position, I’m open to it. I’ve always said that I’m comfortable in either role, coaching or as a technical director.

“I’ve spent more time over my career in a locker room and on a field than I have in an office, and I still think that’s where my skillset lies. However, I’m not averse to doing what I’ve been doing the last five or eight years. … In the end, it’s up to them, what they see and believe and feel that I’m capable of doing.”

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.