Larentowicz: 'It's the players' obligation to get things done'


Larentowicz: 'It's the players' obligation to get things done'

The Chicago Fire's start to the 2015 MLS regular season has been anything but smooth sailing thus far. The Men in Red hit back at the three-match losing streak to begin the campaign with a run of three consecutive wins. Two straight defeats to Western Conference opponents - Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake - in a span of six days last month were followed by successive draws away to New York City FC and Columbus Crew.

Despite inflicting their most impressive win in recent memory on the Montreal Impact at the end of May, Frank Yallop's side has let two, crucial leads slip to D.C. United and most recently Orlando City SC.   

With thirteen matches gone, captain Jeff Larentowicz contends it's time for the players to take ownership of their late defensive breakdowns, beginning with Saturday night's match at New England Revolution. 

[RELATED - Tonight on CSN: Fire battle second-place New England in Foxborough]

"It hasn't only been this week, it's been for a few weeks now," Larentowicz said Friday. "Those times when we lose leads and fall back on ourselves in games are when we do lose the team shape; we get pulled apart. It's been a several-week process. It is getting better, but it takes discipline; you have to stay patient with it."

Following back-to-back losses against Eastern Conference sides, the Fire slipped to ninth place in the standings only above New York City FC, who've played one more game and currently sit on 11 points.

Larentowicz, a 10-year MLS veteran, insists the gravity of the match against his former team - regardless of the Men in Red's form - is no different, however. Jay Heaps' outfit, lodged in second place and seven points back of table-toppers D.C. United, poses a unique, attacking threat that's seen it procure the joint-most goals (20) in the East along with D.C. and Columbus.  

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"Everybody's focused for Saturday," he added. "Coming off two losses, you have to get out there and produce a good game. Not only are we in that situation where it's two losses, but we're playing on the road against one of the top teams in our conference.

"It was always going to be an important game whether we were on a five-game win streak or two-game losing streak. Everyone's extremely focused for the game and we want to turn things around.

"They have a lot of weapons in the front, however they line up. Even guys that come off the bench are dangerous: a guy like Diego Fagundez, who wasn't playing all the games, but can come on and score a goal. For us, it's going to be about managing the game."

[MORE FIRE: Magee to miss New England match; Doody recalled from STLFC]

A former MLS Cup winner with the Colorado Rapids and three-time finalist with the Revolution, Larentowicz is no stranger to success in the league. The only player to have played every minute for the Fire in 2015, the 31-year-old is in prime position to impart some of his wisdom onto the current and raw batch of players, who've experienced the parity of the league first hand. 

"Once the week of training is over, the coach's job is pretty close to finished; it's the players' obligation to get things done," Larentowicz added. "Everybody has to be a leader on the field and do their part. 

"If it's very early in the year and you've got a lot of new guys, you can blame cohesion or understanding of your role, but at this point the roles are pretty defined. The formation hasn't changed, the personnel has been pretty consistent. Everybody needs to lead themselves and lead the guys around them."

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.