Fire

Nelson Rodriguez says Gilberto is staying with the Fire, for now

Nelson Rodriguez says Gilberto is staying with the Fire, for now

It’s no secret Gilberto has struggled to score goals for the Chicago Fire this season.

The Brazilian forward hasn’t scored yet and was absent in the Fire’s last game before the Copa America break for “personal reasons.”

During a conference call with media on Monday, general manager Nelson Rodriguez addressed the rumors concerning what Gilberto’s absence against Portland on May 28 means for his future. The team took a week off from training during the past week and returned to practice on Monday.

“Over the course of the break, I checked in with Gilberto again,” Rodriguez said. “At that time he still indicated to me that he was not in a state of mind that was his best. He has left me to draw the conclusion that for the moment, we need to continue to try to work with him as a person.”

Whether this is simply a buildup of frustration over his or the team’s performance or is genuinely a personal matter that is affecting Gilberto was not made clear.

“We will work with Gilberto individually as we try to get him back into a form that can help us,” Rodriguez said. “Our preference has always been to be scoring goals for our team. That’s always been our preference. That’s something that I expressed to his agent not long ago. There’s a human side to this and a professional side to it. They get blurred a little bit in this situation as well.

“We’ll see what we can do to help Gilberto.”

Rodriguez does make it sound like a personal matter, but rumors have surfaced about a possible exit, either via transfer to another club or a buyout. For now, Rodriguez said there has been no contact with any teams in Gilberto’s native Brazil.

“Gilberto has from time-to-time expressed his desire to return to Brazil and play in Brazil,” Rodriguez said. “It’s unclear whether that’s now or at the end of his contract or in the future, but we have not spoken to any clubs in Brazil about Gilberto’s services.”

Gilberto is in Chicago as the team returns to training. The team plays an intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday, which will also feature the Fire’s PDL team, and how much he participates in that could be an indication of how close he is or is not to returning to game action.

His absence in the short-term would at the very least hurt the forward depth for the Fire, which is already thin in terms of sheer numbers. Michael de Leeuw is expected to join the team in training later this week, but isn’t eligible to play until July 9.

“I would just say we move on when we can,” coach Veljko Paunovic said regarding Gilberto’s absence. “We have guys who can perform.”

Rodriguez did leave an opening, if only in a roundabout way, to a potential Gilberto exit when asked if the team had explored trying to buy out his contract. Gilberto is one of 23 players in Major League Soccer who makes more than $1 million annually according to the MLS Players Union.

“We’ve not had that discussion with Gilberto or his representatives,” Rodriguez said. “Every option always has to be on the table. At some point if we can’t get him to be productive and scoring goals for us, we have to look at anything that is available to us or that we create for ourselves.”

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.