Fire

In search of answers, Fire try to learn from draw in Orlando

In search of answers, Fire try to learn from draw in Orlando

Sunday’s scoreless draw at Orlando left the Chicago Fire frustrated and searching for answers as to why the team was unable to break through against the shorthanded Lions.

Orlando suffered a first-half red card, one which the league has since rescinded, and another in the second half to go down to nine men. The Fire were unable to get a shot on target after Orlando went down to nine.

The missed opportunity of getting a win away from home against a playoff rival in the Eastern Conference could haunt the Fire later on. For now, coach Veljko Paunovic and co. are trying to figure out how to fix what went wrong.

“I think it was a very tricky game,” Paunovic said. “When I spoke with our general manager, Nelson Rodriguez, he said it right. Something that we are good in, which is now controlling the game and being consistent in, that worked against us.

“Now we were comfortable in controlling the game, the thing that we haven’t been in the past. Now we are like this is our style, we can do it, we can do it. We were maybe too confident because we thought it’s going to come, it’s going to come, it’s going to come. What we lacked of was the sense of urgency. We woke up in the last five minutes, but it was too late.”

Rodriguez said during training on Wednesday that he opted for the glass half-full view that Sunday’s game was the first time the Fire controlled a game for all 90 minutes. While a team playing up a man for over an hour is expected to control the game, the Fire did have a majority of the possession even before Rafael Ramos’ controversial red card.

Another factor is how unusual the circumstances were. It’s not often teams defend in the way Orlando did because it’s not often teams are down to nine players.

“You know when you play against a team which has only nine or 10 players on the field they defend only, let’s say 35 meters,” midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “If you play against 11 sometimes it’s a little bit longer, the distance they have to defend.

“We were maybe not 100 percent sharp enough to win the game at the end of the day.”

Schweinsteiger, along with Dax McCarty, has been one of the most vocal players on the team in terms of saying there is room for improvement even after the results have improved.

“What I feel is like, especially after the Seattle victory at home, that we got more confidence,” Schweinsteiger said. “We believe. We play with a bigger chest. But still we are not on that level where I can say we are on a top level. We are on a good level, but we still have to improve.”

The broader view of the draw in Orlando is that, even if aided by the circumstances of the match and the two red cards, the Fire are looking back negatively at a draw on the road. Last year, the Fire had one win and two draws on the road out of 17 matches. This year’s team already has a win and three draws on the road.

Paunovic is looking at Sunday’s draw as a learning experience.

“This had to happen on the field so we can learn from that and I think we did,” Paunovic said. “We spoke about it, we had a long meeting for more than 30 minutes. Everyone gave his input and everyone was like, yes, we were all on the same page. We have to learn from this, we’ll learn.

“Now next time we have this situation I think we will be prepared.”

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.