Khaly Thiam showing progress after solid performance Wednesday

Khaly Thiam showing progress after solid performance Wednesday

Lost amidst David Accam’s late heroics for the Chicago Fire on Wednesday was the solid performance of midfielder Khaly Thiam.

In the Fire’s penalty shootout victory against Indy Eleven at Toyota Park, Thiam had his most assertive and positive performance since joining the club on May 4.

The Fire’s 22-year-old Senegalese midfielder completed 51 out of 59 passes in the match, good for a solid 86 percent completion rate. Those 51 completed passes were the third most on the team and included three “key passes” that signified a chance created. Thiam also probably should have had an assist when he slid across a ball to David Accam at the far post in the first half, but Accam hit the open shot off the crossbar.

“I think Khaly did very well,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “For us it was very important to see that he is starting to get the speed of the game, to execute and play fast.”

Thiam also converted his penalty kick, which came in a tough spot. Kennedy Igboananike skied the Fire’s first attempt over the crossbar and Indy Eleven had converted each of its first two spot kicks. Thiam stepped up in the shootout with all the momentum against the Fire and converted.

“What was very, very good for him also to score that goal, the penalty,” Paunovic said. “We believe we are building and giving him the right support and the right pace of getting games in the league and in this competition, too. He is improving well and we will do everything to support him and take the best of him.”

In Thiam’s first three outings with the Fire, he had failed to make an impression in midfield. In fact, the 51 completed passes in his 120 minutes against Indy Eleven are more than the 35 he completed in his 151 minutes of MLS play.

Thiam had a high completion percentage in his debut against New England, completing 17 of 21 passes in 64 minutes, but a central midfielder needs to be more involved than that. In his second appearance, Thiam played 62 minutes at the New York Red Bulls and was even worse, completing just 11 of 19 passes.

Wednesday’s performance, even if it came against an NASL side, was Thiam’s best showing in a Fire shirt so far. Having a similar game against an MLS team is the next step, but at least Thiam showed his ability more than he had previously.

“I feel more comfortable,” Thiam said. “It was a very difficult match.

“We could have killed this game earlier, but it’s football.”

Thiam hadn’t played a full 90 minutes yet with the Fire and Wednesday’s game was 120 minutes followed by the pressure penalty on a hot summer night.

“I think everybody was tired, but we were just going,” Thiam said. “Everybody wanted to win this game so we went until the end. We were successful.”

The Fire learned what’s next in the U.S. Open Cup when the draw was held on Thursday morning. The Columbus Crew will visit Toyota Park on Tuesday, June 28. The winner will host the winner of the Orlando City/Ft. Lauderdale Strikers match in a quarterfinal.

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.