New homegrown signing Joey Calistri has long history with Fire


New homegrown signing Joey Calistri has long history with Fire

To say Joey Calistri has some history and ties to the Chicago Fire is putting it mildly.

The Northwestern product and Deerfield native joined Drew Conner as brand new homegrown players to sign professional contracts on Thursday, but it merely continues years of being in the club’s system for Calistri.

Calistri started playing soccer around four or five years old and after playing for a local club, he moved to Fire Juniors. He has stayed with the club ever since.

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“You can check off all the boxes,” Calistri said. “I went through Fire Juniors and Fire Academy. In college summers, I went through Fire PDL. I actually even interned with the Chicago Fire front office last summer. I’ve been around the club for a while now.”

Calistri graduated from Northwestern two quarters early with a degree in communications with a concentration in marketing. Last summer, he was a communications intern with the club, practicing in the morning and working in the afternoon. He graduated with a number of academic awards, twice being named Academic All-Big Ten and earning a 4.0 grade point average in his final quarter.

As for his play, Calistri finished his four-year career at Northwestern second in the program’s all-time goal-scoring list with 30. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound forward also notched 10 assists in 68 appearances and was an All-Big Ten honoree all four years, earning first-team honors as a freshman and sophomore and second-team honors as a junior and senior. In his time with the Wildcats, Northwestern made the tournament three times, including a first round loss to new Fire teammate Matt Polster’s Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in 2014.

"Joey's whole career has been a testament to hard work," Northwestern head coach Tim Lenehan said in a press release from the school. "He leaves Northwestern as one of the best players we have ever had here … That same work ethic that has helped Joey have such success at Northwestern will no doubt serve him well at the professional level.”

When describing his play, Calistri emphasized that work ethic.

“I know that the main reason why I’ve gotten where I am is because of my work ethic,” Calistri said. “That’s something that’s very apparent in my game, whether that’s tracking back defensively or chasing down defenders. I think that’s something I always pride myself on. In addition to that, attacking wise, I like being dynamic and trying to make runs off the ball and trying to get behind defenses and making them uncomfortable.”

As for how Calistri will fit into the Fire’s plans in 2016 remains unclear. The club currently only has 15 players under contract and Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike are the only true forwards on the roster.

Calistri had kept in touch with technical director Brian Bliss, who coached the PDL team Calistri played on in the summer. Coach Veljko Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez reached out a few days ago by phone to give Calistri the good news.

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“They seem very dedicated to turning this club around,” Calistri said. “Obviously you can tell that they have a lot of energy and they definitely seem like they have some good ideas going forward. I know they’re going to put a lot of work into making this a successful club.”

For now, Calistri is preparing for the upcoming season. He already had a workout at The PrivateBank Fire Pitch after the signing was announced on Thursday.

“I’m just excited to get started,” Calistri said. “It’s still a bit surreal right now. It’s something that I’ve worked for ever since I was a kid. I can’t remember when it was first a dream, but it’s always kind of been where I want to be. For it to actually happen is a dream come true. That’s kind of an understatement.”

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.