Nyarko, Igboananike send Fire to U.S. Open Cup semifinals


Nyarko, Igboananike send Fire to U.S. Open Cup semifinals

Thanks to Patrick Nyarko's third-minute strike and a late brace from Kennedy Igboananike, the Fire eclipsed MLS expansion side Orlando City SC, 3-1, and secured their passage to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals.

The Men in Red came out of the gates flying, catching the Orlando City back line napping. Jon Busch's long ball forward to Nyarko was brought down well and coolly finished past 'keeper Tally Hall, before Canadian international Cyle Larin leveled in the second half. Two late goals from second-half substitute Igboananike, however, proved to be the difference between the sides in front of an announced crowd of 4,723 at Toyota Park Wednesday night.

“I can smile! Yes!" Yallop replied when asked to submit his opening statement to reporters after the match. "Massive, I've sat here long enough and said to you (reporters), when we have our guys on the field, that we are pretty good. I think that showed tonight, we had the difference-makers out there."

Frank Yallop made a trio of changes from the side that experienced a second consecutive loss to Columbus Crew SC over the weekend. Busch earned his first start in goal since the Fire's 2-0 defeat away to the New England Revolution on June 13. Joevin Jones returned from Gold Cup duty to replace a cup-tied Patrick Doody, while Shaun Maloney's entry allowed Harry Shipp to retreat to a wide role in place of David Accam.

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Maloney -- making his first cameo since emerging with what was diagnosed as a bulging disc in his back in the Fire's 1-0 win over USL's Louisville City FC on June 16 -- looked lively in his No. 10 role: demanding the ball, creating for his teammates and moving fluidly. The Scotland international came close in the 16th minute, knuckling a free kick toward Hall, forcing the Orlando City netminder to parry over the bar.

Shipp generated a couple of solid looks himself, his most dangerous coming just shy of the quarter-hour mark. After combining well with Maloney, the Homegrown midfielder curled a cheeky effort past the reach of Hall and just wide of the right post. A nifty one-two between Nyarko and Razvan Cocis -- sporting the captain's armband -- 10 minutes later led to the Romanian's shot trickling wide of Hall's left post.  

The Men in Red, who outshot the Lions 8-2 in the opening 45, had their slim advantage canceled out 11 minutes into the second stanza. A swift counterattacking move -- ignited by right back Rafael Ramos -- sent winger Eric Avila bursting down the right side before delivering a pinpointed cross for rookie Cyle Larin to head past Busch.   

Substitutes Accam and Igboananike ran the Orlando City defense ragged -- the former showing flashes of his speedy brilliance -- keeping defenders on their heels and forcing a wary Hall into a number of saves as the sides went back and forth as the second half wore on.

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With extra time looming, the two Designated Players put matters into their own hands. Three minutes from time, Matt Watson sprung Accam down the left side before releasing a shot that clanked off the post, falling to Igboananike to tap in and restore the Fire's lead. The Nigerian was on the mark again in the 91st minute, dribbling his way around Hall and scoring on an unguarded net to eliminate the visitors from the quarterfinal stage for the second time since 2013. 

"Hopefully this win, although it's in the Open Cup -- it was against a very good opponent -- lifts our spirits and we have a great performance on the weekend and win," Yallop added. "I think we have done well to get to this stage and we have had a couple tricky ties at home, forget the opposition. If you look at some of the results in the Cup, a lot of teams go through that are lower in the league. We stuck to it, got through it and did well."

The victory sets up an away visit to face the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Aug. 12 in the Open Cup semifinals, four days before the two sides meet in Philly again for a MLS regular-season fixture on Aug. 16.

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs):

(4-4-1-1): Jon Busch; Matt Polster, Eric Gehrig, Adaílton, Joevin Jones; Patrick Nyarko (David Accam, 59'), Matt Watson, Razvan Cocis (C), Harry Shipp; Shaun Maloney (Kennedy Igboananike, 66'); Jason Johnson (Michael Stephens, 90').  

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.