Fire

Trade emotional for both Harry Shipp and Fire fans

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Trade emotional for both Harry Shipp and Fire fans

In professional sports, players leave and trades happen. That’s part of the business side of sports.

However, when the Chicago Fire traded Harry Shipp on Saturday, the business side caused some tears to be shed.

Shipp tweeted out a statement Saturday afternoon explaining what the Fire meant to him as a childhood fan of the team and thanked fans for his time with the club.

“When I was told out of the blue that I would no longer be a member of the Fire, I immediately broke down and started crying,” Shipp said in the statement. “It was totally shocking and overwhelming. This club and this city have meant everything to me. Not just for the past two years, but since I started following the Fire over 15 years ago. I know this is a business and nothing is personal, but this is inherently personal for me.”

Those words and feelings likely echoed throughout the fanbase. Take one look at the responses to the Fire’s tweet announcing the trade. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

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Shipp may not be the star fans thought he would be after a strong rookie campaign. He could also see his production skyrocket this season in Montreal with Didier Drogba leading the Impact’s attack.

Regardless, the reason many fans are probably upset is because Shipp represented something the Fire haven’t had enough of in recent years. He was a talented young player with local roots and on top of that was a genuinely nice person. Shipp was becoming the face of the franchise and, whether or not his play on the field warranted it, Shipp was the most well-known Fire player within Chicagoland.

When Shipp emerged as a star at Notre Dame, led the Fighting Irish to the national title in 2013 and became one of the top rookie prospects in Major League Soccer, it gave the Fire some much-needed buzz that he could sign as a Homegrown Player. After he was Rookie of the Year runner-up, Fire fans had a player to latch onto as someone to be proud of.

Everyone loves a local kid makes good story and the Chicago Fire had one of its own. As Academy players continue to sign with the Fire, and more are on the way, none have made the impact Shipp has had.

Fire fans have become skeptical in recent years. That’s what happens when a team makes the playoffs just once in six years in a league where more than half of the league makes the playoffs. Shipp cut through that to give the team and fans something positive and it’s hard to put a price on that. Yet, that’s exactly what happened on Saturday.

“Unfortunately all I was able to contribute was two of the statistically worst seasons in Fire history, and that genuinely breaks my heart more than you could imagine,” Shipp said. “I’m sorry that I was unable to do more for the city, because if anyone understands what this city deserves in a soccer club, it is me.”

[MORE: Paunovic praises Fire's young players]

The Fire don’t yet have something tangible to show for the trade of Shipp. That said, general manager Nelson Rodriguez is surely not ignorant to the situation. He knew what this trade meant and what Shipp meant to Fire fans. Rodriguez obviously believes this can make the club better.

A move like this is likely the set up to another move and that move may heal all wounds that Fire fans are feeling now. However, this signifies something else for Rodriguez. The patience he has had every right to ask for earlier this offseason just got thinner.

Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic have put an emphatic stamp on the club before the season opener. This is their team. Of the Fire players currently on the roster, only Sean Johnson was with the team at the start of the 2014 season. Razvan Cocis, who signed midway through that season, is now the second most tenured player in the club.

It’s easy to explain why that kind of rebuild was needed for a team that has struggled for so long. However, Rodriguez stepped up with a bold move on Saturday. For his sake, and for Fire fans, hopefully it works out.

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.