Fire

Preview: Fire try to keep top MLS record at shorthanded Timbers on CSN

Preview: Fire try to keep top MLS record at shorthanded Timbers on CSN

The Chicago Fire are enduring a busy stretch of games and are missing key players, but they won’t get any sympathy from the Portland Timbers.

The Fire are without Dax McCarty, who is with the U.S. national team for the Gold Cup, David Accam is returning from international duty and Bastian Schweinsteiger is listed as questionable after leaving in the first half of Saturday’s 4-0 win against Vancouver. While all three are keys starters for the Fire, that list is significantly shorter than the players the Timbers will be missing.

The Timbers won’t be able to field a full 18-man matchday roster due to injuries and players away for the Gold Cup. Regular starters Diego Chara and Liam Ridgewell and depth players Jack Barmby and Amobi Okugo are out with injuries. Starting right back Alvas Powell and frequent attacking substitute Darren Mattocks are with Jamaica and starting central midfielder David Guzman is with Costa Rica for the Gold Cup.

The Fire will try to take advantage of Portland's lack of depth when they travel to Providence Park Wednesday night. The game will be live on CSN with an hour and a half of Fire coverage leading into the match. First up is a new episode of Chicago Fire Weekly at 8 p.m. and then Fire Pregame Live is on at 9 p.m.

It will be the Fire’s fourth game in 12 days and will cap off a busy stretch of seven games in 26 days for the host Timbers. Portland is winless in five straight, including a loss to Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup, but is 5-1-3 at home this season.

“Portland is going to be a great test for us and we have to keep the mentality that we have now and play the way we were playing so far,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said.

Portland’s depth is razor thin, but the Timbers will be able to send out almost all of the starting lineup that earned a quality road draw at Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

The Fire took over the best record in MLS on Saturday, but have a tough stretch of games coming up to hold onto that spot. After Wednesday, the Fire will go on break for the Gold Cup group stage, but will return July 22 with a game at New York City FC and a trip to Sporting KC the next week.

“We just have to keep playing the way we’re playing with confidence,” midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “It’s a lot of games left, but we got to keep doing the same thing.”

Chicago Fire at Portland Timbers

Where: Providence Park, Portland, Ore.

TV: CSN Chicago

When: Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live (a new episode of Chicago Fire Weekly starts at 8 p.m.)

Records: Fire (11-3-4, 37 points), Timbers (7-7-5, 26 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.