Fire

Kaká on his move to Orlando, MLS: 'It's a change of values'

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Kaká on his move to Orlando, MLS: 'It's a change of values'

Born in Brasilia in 1982, Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite - a former Ballon d'Or winner and 2002 FIFA World Cup champion with Brazil - excelled at tennis at a young age. Ricardo - better known as Kaká to supporters worldwide - pulled up stakes and migrated with his family to São Paulo, which triggered him to pursue soccer, however, joining the local club as a 15-year-old.

Eighteen years on - and at one point the sport's most expensive player following his move from AC Milan to Real Madrid in 2009 - the 33-year-old has been showered with praise for turning back the years with his new lease on his career with Orlando City SC.

One of the most venerated players of his era, Kaká's stature as an innovator and dynamic playmaker testifies to his genius to glide eloquently past the opposition, continually rip defenses apart with lacerating passes and demonstrate a knack for hitting the back of the net. His first two months since joining Major League Soccer and launching the newest chapter of a fabled career in "The City Beautiful" have been nothing short of enriching.

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“It’s a great experience,” he said Friday. “I’m so happy with what I decided. Everything is nil. It’s a new experience, with a lot of difference between playing here and in Europe. But good things, not bad things."

Having reached a virtually unparalleled level of stardom during his life's work in comparison with perhaps some of the league's fellow Designated Players, Kaká's undying humility and pure love for the game - evidenced by his now obsolete Twitter bio, reading "Christian, husband and father who loves football" - is being wielded within head coach Adrian Heath's camp.      

“I think it’s a change of values,” he said, stressing the importance of learning from his teammates. “I can teach them some of the experience I’ve had in my career and, for sure, I’ve learned a lot from them. We have very good players; a lot of them play for the national teams and it’s good.”

[RELATED: Yallop wary of 'well-balanced' Orlando City]

With a team-high six goals and six assists through 13 matches, the Brazilian has fared reasonably well and made his transition into MLS fairly seamless. So much so that the Lions' star man was added to the Seleção's 30-man preliminary roster ahead of the Copa América - South America's biggest international tournament - last month, but failed to make head coach Dunga's final 23-man squad.
 
Instead, he will return to the Windy City after a previous visit with the national team, and line up for Orlando against the Chicago Fire (7:30 p.m. on CSN) at Toyota Park on Saturday. Level on points in the Eastern Conference, a first-ever meeting beckons for two playoff-hopeful sides. 
 
“More or less, we are in the same position in the table," he added. "We have [played] one more game than them, but the game, for this reason, is going to be hard because we need to win, they need to win. They come from a loss against D.C. and we are three games without losing, so, for us it’s a big moment. It’s time to get some points to get up in the table.”
 
“I’ve been here once with the national team and it’s a great city. When I’ve been here before, we went out and knew a little bit of the city. I’ll try to have another opportunity to go around." 
 
Check out the video above to hear what else Kaká had to say.  

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.