Jason Johnson's last-gasp goal gives Fire win over Sounders


Jason Johnson's last-gasp goal gives Fire win over Sounders

After gaining much-needed confidence from a visit to the Lone Star State last Friday, the Fire beat their first Western Conference opponent of the season, knocking off Seattle Sounders FC, 1-0, in front of 18,528 at Toyota Park Saturday night.  

It was a night of firsts, as head coach Frank Yallop made a trio of changes from the side that snatched a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo last Friday.

Following his 72nd-minute equalizer at BBVA Compass Stadium - entering as a second-half substitute - Patrick Nyarko stood in for Jason Johnson, and earned his first MLS start since Oct. 10, 2014 at Sporting Kansas City and his 135th regular-season appearance. Meanwhile, a first-ever league cameo was granted to Patrick Doody, who returned from a loan stint at Saint Louis FC to deputize for Greg Cochrane. Mike Magee also reclaimed the captain's armband and slotted in alongside Kennedy Igboananike to lead the firing line for the Men in Red.

[RELATED: Fire approach halfway point of 2015, face stern test in Sounders]

The Fire began just as Yallop preached prior to the match, on the front foot despite Magee spurning the game's first clear-cut opportunity in the third minute, heading a delightful cross from Nyarko over Perkins' goal.

Seven minutes later, a cheeky 1-2 between Harry Shipp and Nyarko had the makings of a stellar opening goal, as Shipp's low delivery found Kennedy Igboananike, whose one-time effort went wide before being flagged for offside. It was the first of three missed opportunities for the Nigerian, as he continued to put himself in positions to score all night, but failed to slot home past Perkins in the 34th minute, blazing a shot wildly off target and again in the 58th minute, with an attempted back-heel flick rolling safely into the palms of the Sounders 'keeper. 

Yallop's side continued to apply pressure on the visitors, coming close to opening their account in the 19th minute. This time, it was Magee and Shipp who linked up, the latter providing an expertly weighted ball to the back post, which met the head of Nyarko, who was denied by an alert Perkins once again.

Former Fire forward Chad Barrett endeavored to get Sigi Schmid's outfit on the board in the 37th minute, as his one-timed, left-footed side volley was struck firmly at Johnson. Cristian Roldan hit the woodwork just shy of the halftime whistle, marking the visitors' best chance in an opening 45 minutes that saw tensions flare up as Barrett and Eric Gehrig tussled before walking off the field.   

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Ten minutes into the second stanza, the Fire were lucky not to concede a penalty as Nyarko appeared to have brought down Thomás, but referee Allen Chapman let play go on.

The Rave Green resisted well despite the Fire continuing to inflict pressure on their counterparts, and, in the 67th minute, almost found their breakthrough. Substitute Andy Craven came close to making an instant impact after Tyrone Mears' free kick fell to the forward, whose volley was hounded down by Johnson.

In the 78th minute, substitute Guly do Prado nearly converted his headed effort past Perkins, who was up to the task yet again. Jason Johnson, a late substitute, took the Fire's last chance of the encounter with an arrow to the back post in second-half stoppage time to give the Men in Red a deserved victory, and first in league play since a 3-0 drubbing of the Montreal Impact on May 30.

Next up for the Fire is a midweek fixture against Columbus Crew SC on July 15 at Toyota Park. The Sounders host Colorado Rapids on July 18 at CenturyLink Field.   

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs):

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Adailton, Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko (Jason Johnson, 65'), Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster, Harry Shipp; Mike Magee (C) (Guly do Prado, 70'), Kennedy Igboananike (Michael Stephens, 83'). 

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.