With two road games looming, Fire move on from disappointing draw

With two road games looming, Fire move on from disappointing draw

Fresh off the disappointment of conceding a goal in the 90th minute that turned a win into a draw, Fire coach Veljko Paunovic returned to his optimistic self.

Paunovic talked with reporters on Tuesday during a conference call and said the team has moved on from the disappointing tie with the New York Red Bulls, which he again said felt like a loss.

“You can permit yourself that night to be disappointed, but then you have to stand up the next day,” Paunovic said. “This is how we are working this week, facing two very important games. One on the road against Real Salt Lake [on Saturday] and the second one, the semifinal against New England [on Aug. 9], obviously the Open Cup. The challenge for us will be to recover the guys.”

Joao Meira, who suffered a hamstring strain against the Red Bulls, won’t be available in Salt Lake. Paunovic kept the possibility open that he could play in New England.

Part of the team’s preparation this week involves a scrimmage on Tuesday. Paunovic said the extra game-action will benefit players who have not played as much recently. Rookie Joey Calistri won’t participate due to a lingering ankle injury.

The Fire haven’t won a game on the road in more than two years so facing two road games in the span of four days will be a tough test.

“It’s something that we are dealing with the whole year and we believe,” Paunovic said of the team’s winless road streak. “We believe it will come. We prepare for every game in order to win and we will do our best in the game against Real Salt Lake. We know it’s going to be tough. A lot of adjustments are there, playing in altitude and all the stuff.

“We believe that we are having huge improvements in our team in the last month, especially when we are playing at home. I think that’s the process. As I said many times, we started with building our solid defense, now we are very competitive playing our games at home.”

Paunovic reiterated the need for the team to improve on the mental side. While he applauded the team’s ability to turn a deficit into a lead against the Red Bulls, giving up the late goal and not being able to close out the game is partially on the mental side.

The summer transfer window closes on Wednesday and Paunovic teased reporters that they should stay ready with one day remaining. The Fire have been connected to Armenian forward David Arshakyan.

Another move that the Fire have reportedly been connected to is U.S. national teamer Alejandro Bedoya’s move to the Philadelphia Union. The Union are No. 2 in the league’s allocation order, which Bedoya is subject to, and the Fire hold the No. 1 spot. The Fire may be able to get some compensation, likely in the form of allocation money, from the Union for the top spot.

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.