Fire

Logan Pause leading trophy-winning Fire PDL team

Logan Pause leading trophy-winning Fire PDL team

The Chicago Fire’s first team hasn’t had much success yet this season, but the club’s PDL squad is off to an impressive start to the summer.

The Fire PDL, an under-23 club comprised of Fire Academy products in high school and college as well as other college players from the region, recently won the Hank Steinbrecher Cup. The tournament was contested last weekend between four invited teams from different amateur leagues across the country.

The tournament was hosted by defending champion Chattanooga FC. After the Fire beat West Chester United 6-1 in the semifinal, the PDL squad knocked off the hosts 2-1 in extra time. Mark Segbers, a forward for Wisconsin, scored in regulation and current Fire Academy player Mauricio Pineda tallied the game-winning goal.

“It was a great experience for the players to be in a competition like that, to lift a trophy and to play in front of 3,500 fans in the last game,” Fire PDL coach Logan Pause said. “It’s part of the players’ development as players, learning how to win is an important piece.”

The PDL (Premier Development League) is all about developing players to become professionals. Obviously not all of them will make that jump, but Matt Pearson, the Fire’s head of scouting, and Pause picked a collection of some of the club’s best academy products and other college players.

Some could even become homegrown signings for the Fire. Current rookies and homegrown signings Joey Calistri and Drew Conner both played for the PDL team. Not every player on the team is eligible to sign with the Fire.

“It’s a combination of continuing to further develop our current player pool and then also getting an idea of what else is out there,” Pause said. “This is an important part of their development and allows us to see kids everyday over the course of two and a half months. It definitely helps, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s guaranteed to produce after this homegrown players.”

Two of the Fire Academy players, Pineda and Djordje Mihailovic, are high school age players who are going up against players that already have college experience. Both have also trained with the first team this season.

Pineda graduated from high school a semester early and is set to enroll at North Carolina in the fall. Mihailovic is only a junior in high school. Both have also earned youth national team call-ups from the U.S.

“I think that they have done well with the challenge,” Pause said of Pineda and Mihailovic. “I think it also shows the areas that they need to get pushed and get high level games and get games against bigger, stronger, faster players and faster tempo. I’ve been pleased with the response from those players and other young players that have come through and are participating with the PDL. But it doesn’t stop there. You need to continue to push and push these guys and hopefully continue to be a part of their development over the next course of these years.”

Pause, who is an assistant coach for the first team, is getting experience as well. This is the first time he has been the regular head coach of a team.

“Having my own thing so to speak has definitely been a first,” Pause said. “It’s been a great experience for me to see how to find my voice as a coach and to plan accordingly and run player meetings and organize things and all of those things that are really important for me to learn as I grow in my coaching ability.”

The Fire PDL team is currently 2-1 in league play. The final regular season match is scheduled for July 9 and then postseason play begins.

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.