Fire

Jon Busch, Frank Yallop react to USOC Round of 16 draw

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Jon Busch, Frank Yallop react to USOC Round of 16 draw

After edging past one USL side in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Chicago Fire will meet another third-division club in the next phase of the fabled tournament.

The Men in Red will host Charlotte Independence in the Round of 16 on Tuesday, June 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Park. 

Led by U.S. men's national team Press Officer Michael Kammarman, Thursday morning's draw, hosted by the U.S. Soccer House in Chicago, was conducted by U.S. Adult Soccer Association Executive Director Duncan Riddle and Open Cup Commissioner Paul Marstaller.

[RELATED: Geographic groupings for Round of 16 USOC draw announced]

Frank Yallop's depleted group advanced with a 1-0 victory over first-year outfit Louisville City FC in extra time Tuesday night, while Charlotte stunned the New England Revolution 1-0 in Boston to move forward.

"They've gone into a very tough environment and won," Yallop said after training on Friday. "[We] take no game lightly; we're at home, which is great for us. We want to do well in this competition and we grinded ourselves through the last round."

Jon Busch, who sat out of Tuesday's match to make way for Sean Johnson's first start since May 15, knows the feeling of being on both sides of a MLS vs. USL fixture and the competitive spirit that comes with being the underdog. The 38-year-old played for Hampton Roads Mariners and the Hershey Wildcats, who dissolved in 2007 and 2001, respectively. 

"We've got to match their intensity," Busch added. "They're going to come out here; they want to upset us; they want to prove people wrong. That's the biggest thing going into a game against a lower-division club: the soccer may not be at the level we think it should be, but they're going to come after us full bore and we've got to be able to handle that."

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Charlotte head coach Mike Jeffries, meanwhile, will return to his old stomping grounds. His first MLS gig was as an assistant to Bob Bradley during the Fire's first three seasons. Jeffries was a part of the inaugural side that won the Open Cup in 1998 and 2000, before returning as an assistant coach once more from 2008-10, and as Director of Player Personnel from October 2010 through September 2012.

The Jacks, a new addition to the USL, were formerly the Charlotte Eagles, whom the Fire faced once before in Open Cup play. A 2-0 triumph on the campus of Winthrop University on May 29, 2013 - with goals from Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe - sent the four-time winners to a fourth-round meeting with Columbus Crew SC, which saw the Men in Red prevail and later trounce Orlando City SC in the Round of 16 that year before falling to D.C. United in the semifinal.

The path appears very similar in 2015. Should the Fire come out on top, they will also host the quarterfinal matchup on July 21 or 22 and face the winner of Crew SC and Orlando City. The winner of the South Region will then travel to face the winner of the East Region in the semifinal Aug. 11-12.         

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.