Fire

Preview: Dax McCarty faces old team with Fire on CSN

Preview: Dax McCarty faces old team with Fire on CSN

An obvious storyline for Saturday's Chicago Fire match at the New York Red Bulls is the return of former Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty to his previous home, but does his familiarity with the opposition give the Fire a boost?

McCarty and the Fire take on the Red Bulls on Saturday at Red Bull Arena. CSN has the live coverage, beginning at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

In a league where most teams don't have a distinct or discernible style the Red Bulls have been identifiable as a team that typically wins the possession battle and punishes mistakes with a high-press since former Fire player Jesse Marsch took over as coach in 2015.

"I was a part of that system for the last two years and obviously I guess you can describe it as when Jesse came in and started coaching the system changed and became very distinct," McCarty said.

McCarty played with the Red Bulls for five and a half seasons and was the captain under Marsch. His familiarity with the players and the system could help the Fire, although he insisted it's nothing most teams can't see on film anyway.

"Obviously I know a couple little inside details that they try to do that most teams can see on video," McCarty said. "There's not going to be any real secrets. I think that they're very good at what they do and they're very good at the way that they play and not many teams are capable of playing with them. We're going to have to do a few things tactically to make sure that we're ready and prepared for everything that they throw at you because they have a very good style of play that's led them to be one of the best teams in the league over the past couple years.

"I'll be able to tell the guys a little bit about each guy that they're playing against, maybe one-on-one battles."

[RELATED: Dax McCarty ready to 'soak in the moment' in return to Red Bull Arena]

The Fire (3-2-2, 11 points) have struggled on the road so far this season with two losses, both by multiple goals, and a draw. The Red Bulls (4-3-1, 13 points) are 3-0-1 at home and had the most home wins in the league (13) last season. Last season, the Fire lost 1-0 at Red Bull Arena and played to a 2-2 draw against the Red Bulls at Toyota Park.

Coach Veljko Paunovic said McCarty's knowledge of the opponent will supplement what he and the staff learned from last year's matches.

"Of course it helps, but we also played against the Red Bulls so many times and saw them play against other teams," Paunovic said. "It's a very good and very well known opponent that we have in front. We believe we know their strengths. It's always helpful that you can have a player who knows their system like Dax and played in that system and performed very well."

The Fire don't yet have a clear style under Paunovic, especially with so many new key figures in this year's team. The three-man central midfield of Bastian Schweinsteiger, McCarty and Juninho is still figuring things out and even Schweinsteiger recently said he is playing at 70 percent fitness.

Paunovic does believe he has seen the team progress in that area though.

"I think we can notice that the team is more comfortable with the ball, more confident and creates more opportunities," he said. "We still have to do a better job converting these opportunities, especially on the road. I think on the road we have to manage better the games, especially to not concede early goals."

The Fire have allowed a goal in the first half hour of all three road games this season. McCarty is hoping to see the Fire’s first road win come at his former home stadium.

"We haven't been very good on the road this year," McCarty said. "There's nothing like going into a really good team's home and getting your first win of the year. That's kind of the way I'm trying to look at it and the way that I'm trying to talk to the guys about it. If we're going to be successful this year we can't just be good at home. We have to win on the road, too. What a better environment, what a better game to get that first win and try to be good and make sure that we leave Red Bull Arena with something."

Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls

Where: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

TV: CSN

When: Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (3-2-2, 11 points), Red Bulls (4-3-1, 13 points)

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.