Fire

Nelson Rodriguez teases new Fire additions coming

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Nelson Rodriguez teases new Fire additions coming

The Fire season is only four games old, but general manager Nelson Rodriguez teased more players will be joining the team in May.

Rodriguez spilled the big news on the Chicago Fire Weekly radio show on Saturday morning, ahead of the 1-0 win against the Philadelphia Union, saying the Fire have signed one midfielder and are expecting to add another player soon after.

“We have a signed contract with a young midfield player," Rodriguez said in the interview. "We won’t make that announcement for another week-to-10 days and that’s at the request of the team from whom the player is coming, which is involved in some important matches. It’s a central midfielder who we believe will complement our existing group and give us a little bit more size in there. A great intensity and desire to win, good in the aerial game and we think that that player will help us. We expect that player to join the team in early May, perhaps sooner, depending on the results of his team. That player will come on a loan with an option to purchase a contract.”

The second player is more of an attacking player. Both are international players.

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“We’ve also, although not contracted, we’ve reached agreement on all terms for a forward who can dabble a little bit wide and dabble a little bit as an attacking midfielder," Rodriguez said. "Really a goal scorer. Someone else who can help us with offensive efficiency. A player who is more experienced, has a proven goal-scoring record. We anticipate that that contract will be signed this month and that the player will join us before the end of May. We believe we’ll complete that in time inside of the first transfer window for MLS.”

The MLS transfer window closes on May 11 before reopening on July 4.

The Fire's revamped defense seems to be showing improvement with back-to-back shutouts, but possession play and finishing are still two areas of concern for the team. Paunovic said as much after the win against the Union. The Fire finished with 53.9 percent of the possession, and while a red card in the second half helped the Fire in that area, they were able to edge the first half possession with 50.6 percent.

“We improved our possession," Paunovic said. "We improved other parts of the game, too. I think we created a lot of opportunities again. We have to improve our finishing. Finishing is still something we have to improve."

The two additions Rodriguez talked about could help in these areas. Rodriguez added that the Fire may look within the league for other acquisitions. The final player movement nugget that Rodriguez gave was that he doesn't expect the Fire to be very active internationally in the MLS summer transfer window.

"Part of that will be, while we still have some funds remaining and at our disposal and those are MLS-centered funds, our scouting and recruitment is not evolved enough," Rodriguez said. "First, I have a concern about how good of a job we can do identifying and making sure that we’d be getting the right person. Secondly, history has shown that players who come midseason off of a full and complete long season tend to struggle in their first year in MLS. That’s why we’ve pushed for these two signings in this first window so that the players can join us in May. We can acclimate them, give them rest, still get them ready and have enough season left for them to make a difference."

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.