Second half goals help Fire atone for "edgy" start vs. Charlotte


Second half goals help Fire atone for "edgy" start vs. Charlotte

The Fire were able to regroup following an "edgy" start against a USL delegation Tuesday night to secure a berth in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal for the 12th time in their history.

Charlotte Independence forward Tomasz Zahorski opened the scoring early, with Mike Magee answering in the 37th and 81st minutes and Lovel Palmer's long-distance strike in the 50th minute ultimately sealed a 3-1 victory over the third-division side.

The Men in Red will host Orlando City SC - 2-0 winners over Columbus Crew SC - in the quarterfinal at Toyota Park on July 22 at 7:30 p.m. CT.

"It's great to be through to the next round," head coach Frank Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "Coming from behind is always important, but the highlight of the game was seeing Patrick [Nyarko] and Mike back on the field and contributing. It's been a long way back for them, and I'm happy for the way the team kept going and got the result." 

Yallop made a quartet of changes to the side that dropped its fourth consecutive league match to Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United just six days earlier.

[RELATED: Open Cup a chance for Fire to get 'ship straightened']

As Sean Johnson retained his position for a third successive outing, the netminder saw a duo of swaps along his back four. Lovel Palmer started in place of Eric Gehrig at right back, while Matt Polster replaced veteran defender and captain Jeff Larentowicz at center back for his second start in a defensive role in as many Open Cup appearances.

In the midfield, Englishman Matt Watson deputized for Razvan Cocis alongside Chris Ritter. Finally, the much-anticipated expectation of Mike Magee's return was met as the forward partnered Designated Player Kennedy Igboananike to compliment Yallop's 4-4-2 formation. Nyarko, also making his way back from a long-term injury layoff, was a welcome sight on the bench, going on to make a 13-minute cameo. 

Zahorski, running between Matt Polster and Greg Cochrane in the fifth minute, collected the ball from Alex Martinez and strode through on goal as he finished past Johnson at the far post to score his fourth goal of the tournament and give the visitors a shock lead.

The Men in Red gathered a bit of steam shortly after and came close around the 20-minute mark, as Charlotte's Richard Gilstrap was required to come up with a pair of fine saves. Nifty combination play in the 19th minute from Cochrane and Magee led to a one-time chance for Joevin Jones, but the Trinidadian's effort was palmed away well by Gilstrap, before Magee nearly opened his account in the 22nd minute. A low cross from the right flank was met by the 2013 MLS MVP, whose first-touch chip was met again by Gilstrap and spun just wide of the frame.

[SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey]

In the 37th minute, the Fire found their breakthrough courtesy of Magee, who, following a deft interchange between Igboananike and Palmer, made a perfect run to cut off Gilstrap and reach Palmer's cross, chipping it home to send both teams into the halftime interval on level terms. It was his first goal in all competitions since Aug. 10, 2014, and his sixth career Open Cup goal.

The hosts emerged from the locker room with a greater sense of belief and began on the front foot, applying pressure early on and finding a second goal in the process.

Palmer would latch onto a ball following a corner kick, unleashing a 30-yard screamer past Gilstrap in the 50th minute. With just under 10 minutes remaining, Nyarko's first touch of the game after coming on 13 minutes from time translated into an assist, setting up Magee for his second goal of the match and securing a 3-1 win in front of 3,617 at Toyota Park.

"The great tradition of this club is to do well in the Open Cup," Yallop added. "I'm no different to that; I want to do well for the fans, the club and everybody involved." 

Yallop's group faces another quick turnaround with a visit to Houston Dynamo Friday night in MLS action.   

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer (Eric Gehrig, 81'), Adailton, Matt Polster, Greg Cochrane; Harry Shipp (Patrick Nyarko, 77'), Chris Ritter, Matt Watson, Joevin Jones; Kennedy Igboananike (Jason Johnson, 71'), Mike Magee

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.