Fire

Magee, Nyarko set their sights on facilitating the Fire attack

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Magee, Nyarko set their sights on facilitating the Fire attack

As far as camaraderie between a pair of players among the ranks in Major League Soccer is concerned – on and off the field – Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko could make a case for being the pick of the bunch.

Two of the Chicago Fire’s household names, the 2013 MLS MVP and Ghanaian winger have been sidelined for the better part of the last year with hip and knee injuries, and have endured lengthy rehab stints, looking on together as the Men in Red sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference table in recent weeks.

With the help of the technical staff and fitness coach Adrian Lamb, though, Magee and Nyarko made an instant impact in the Fire’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 victory over the Charlotte Independence on June 30th. 

Magee appeared as a substitute against Orlando City SC and D.C. United last month before making his first start of 2015 against the USL outfit, bagging a brace and playing the full 90 minutes. His 82nd-minute goal was a direct result of Nyarko’s first touches of the ball after coming on as a substitute, splitting two defenders and teeing up Magee for a clinical finish.

[RELATED: Fire approach halfway point of 2015, face stern test in Sounders]

Since then, the two helped the Fire snag a late 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo last Friday. Nyarko, a halftime substitute, was the beneficiary of Magee’s hold-up play this time, getting on the end of Greg Cochrane’s cross to log his 20th goal for the club.

Now, several months on from watching the attacking duo suffer season-ending injuries, head coach Frank Yallop is excited to finally be able to call on both as the Men in Red approach the halfway point of their MLS campaign, marked by Saturday’s home bout with Western Conference co-leaders Seattle Sounders FC (7:30 pm CT; CSN).

"We were desperate to get them back on the field, but we didn't want to push it where we set them back a few days or a few weeks,” Yallop said of their recovery Thursday. “It was a plan to not get them re-injured and I think it's worked. Both of them look, maybe not quite at their best, but quality on the field helps and both Mike and Patrick have tons of quality. It's good to have them back and they'll slowly get better as the games go by.

"Mike's a leader that's been there and done that with the teams he's been with and with us. He's a big presence. Patrick's a quiet presence where he doesn't say too much in the locker room, but everyone respects him; opponents respect him and it's good to have him back."

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Yallop, who feels both Magee and Nyarko are primed for a place in the starting lineup against Sigi Schmid’s group, faces the considerable challenge of addressing a combined six absences to injuries and national team duty that have beset the Fire as of late. The team’s style of play going forward, however, will undoubtedly reap the benefits of the return of Magee and Nyarko, who are champing at the bit to rekindle their on-field connection.

"Me and him have always found it pretty easy to play together," Magee said of Nyarko. "When I first got here, it helps a friendship very well when a guy gives you goals. It came pretty easy for me to try to get as close as I could with him, and, a couple years ago when I got MVP, a large part of that was due to Pat. A majority of my success with this club has been in large part due to him."

"Ever since he came from LA, I noticed something special about him," Nyarko added. "The guy is a really smart soccer player and for a creative guy like me, it makes my job a lot easier. We formed a partnership right away. I take a lot of advice from Mike; he's been there and won championships. I'm glad I was a part of his rehab and now, we're ready to help this team get back to winning ways."

[MORE: Joevin Jones named Man of the Match in T&T win over Guatemala]

The assurance gained from earning a point from a difficult environment at BBVA Compass Stadium – the Fire’s third draw on their travels – will surely have to carry over to a third-to-last clash with a cross-conference foe. After Saturday night, 14 of the Fire’s final 17 games are against Eastern Conference opponents.    

“I think our mentality has changed, we're going to play to win,” Magee said. “At times we've said that and not played that way, but Houston is a good example of even in harsh conditions, with a lot of guys who haven't been starting, we tied the game and then we played to win it." 

"From last week's result, confidence is really high," Nyarko added. "We just need to take that mentality onto the field against Seattle and try to dictate the pace of the game." 

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.