Fire

Notes from the rewatch: David Accam turns into playmaker against Red Bulls

Notes from the rewatch: David Accam turns into playmaker against Red Bulls

The Chicago Fire lost another game away from home on Saturday, but despite the result it wasn’t like so many of the other road defeats in coach Veljko Paunovic’s tenure.

The Fire had a slight edge in possession against the New York Red Bulls (51-49 percent), which is especially impressive considering the Red Bulls are one of the few teams in MLS which prioritizes possession. In addition, the Fire had more shots (14) and shots on target (6) than the Red Bulls, which had 10 shots and three on target.

Missed chances doomed the Fire to a second straight loss, but the Red Bulls missed some quality scoring opportunities as well. Here’s a look at those and a couple other things from Dax McCarty’s return to Red Bull Arena.

David Accam’s passing

Accam has been the focal point of the team’s attack for the past two years, but the addition of Nemanja Nikolic, along with Michael de Leeuw joining in the latter part of last season, has made the Fire’s attack more balanced.

The Fire can build through the midfield with the newcomers in that area as well, meaning Accam isn’t chasing down as many long balls and has needed to find other ways to contribute. Accam, often questioned about his decision-making and passing ability, has a pair of assists this season from quality passes and had even more of that in New Jersey.

Against the Red Bulls, Accam was credited with five key passes and could have easily had an assist or two from them. His through ball set up the Nikolic shot in the 30th minute that resulted in a shot on goal. Five minutes later he lofted a ball over the top to Luis Solignac, who was then free on the right wing. The Fire could have had a penalty when Solignac’s first effort hit the arm of a defender, but the chance probably should have been converted regardless.

Two more Accam crosses were completed in the second half that gave Nikolic and Solignac each an open chance in the box, but neither was put on frame.

Accam was the Fire’s best playmaker on Saturday, which is something different from the Ghanaian winger, but the Fire’s finishers didn’t reward him with any assists.

Missed chances

This is the area many Fire fans focused on after the loss. The Fire coulda, shoulda, woulda won this game with more clinical finishing.

This is definitely arguable. As mentioned above, Accam created most of those chances and they couldn’t finish those.

The Fire had at least four solid chances that either resulted in a missed shot or an easy save for Luis Robles.

When Nikolic cut back on a defender following Accam’s through ball in the 30th minute, he may have had a chance to square the ball to Solignac for an open shot. Nikolic did put a solid shot on target, but Robles was able to make the save.

There’s the Solignac chance in the 35th minute when he loses control of the ball before firing a last ditch shot that gets blocked.

Solignac and Nikolic each had open shots from Accam crosses in the second half, but didn’t make clean contact when they were open in the box. Solignac’s was especially tempting.

However, the Red Bulls had some missed opportunities as well. Before scoring the game-winning goal, Kemar Lawrence sliced an open shot from 12 yards out over the bar. Later, Tyler Adams ran onto a ball in the box and had time to set himself up for an open shot, but skied it. The best chance was when Fire goalkeeper Jorge Bava left a big rebound on a long shot from Sacha Kljestan and somehow Felipe couldn’t corral it to score into a mostly open net.

The point is, yes, the Fire could have scored more goals, but the Red Bulls also had some good chances they missed.

McCarty’s return to Red Bull Arena

In the buildup to Saturday’s game McCarty said he wanted to say goodbye to his former teammates and fans.

This isn’t really related to the game itself, but McCarty did take the time to say something to many Red Bulls players, even joking with Lawrence about the game-winning goal. He also spent time signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who stayed after the game. Things like this are why McCarty was popular with Red Bulls fans.

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.