Fire

Notes from the rewatch: Matt Polster's first start and Bastian Schweinsteiger the release valve

Notes from the rewatch: Matt Polster's first start and Bastian Schweinsteiger the release valve

Coach Veljko Paunovic made just one change to his lineup from the 4-1 win against Seattle last weekend.

Matt Polster stepped in at right back, replacing Drew Conner, to make his first start of the season in Wednesday's win against Colorado. He helped the Fire earn a shutout against the Rapids and had an assist.

Here's a look at how Polster fared and some Bastian Schweinsteiger gifs.

Polster's first start

Polster came on as a sub against Seattle to make his season debut. Given the Fire’s logjam in central midfield, where he played exclusively last year, Polster played at right back. He played the full 90 minutes at that spot against the Rapids.

He completed 54 out of 62 passes, assisted on the second goal and was credited with three more “key passes” on top of that.

Polster at right back gives you the skills and mind of a midfielder, but not the crossing ability expected of a wide player.

After the Seattle game, Polster said about playing right back, "I think there will be moments where I might look like I haven’t done it.”

In terms of his crossing that may be true. He missed a couple crosses on Wednesday, one badly, but was still able to contribute to the attack by playing more like a midfielder. On the second goal, his 1-2 pass and movement was reminiscent of a midfielder cutting through a defense. It worked in his favor after he set up David Accam for the goal.

Schweinsteiger the release valve

There's not much more that needs to be said about Schweinsteiger, but it does seem like the team is starting to get on the same page when it comes to how the German likes to play. Since his debut against Montreal where he put on a passing clinic, he has not made many killer passes to directly create chances.

However, he is settling things down and making sure the Fire keep possession. With Nemanja Nikolic leading the league in goals and David Accam (5 goals, 4 assists) also putting up good scoring numbers, the Fire's attackers can score enough goals as long as they are given the ball. Schweinsteiger has settled into the role of calming influence, often slowing things down to make sure the Fire keep the ball.

He has also showed off his ability to keep the ball and get out of pressure. Here are some examples:

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.