Fire

Venezuela tops Jamaica in Soldier Field's Copa America opener

Venezuela tops Jamaica in Soldier Field's Copa America opener

For the first act of Soldier Field’s Copa America Centenario games, Jamaica-Venezuela was a good appetizer.

The match had an early goal, a number of chances for both teams, the tournament’s first red card, what will go down as one of the best saves of the tournament and even had one of the managers sent to the stands..

The Venezuelans beat Jamaica 1-0 in front of 25,560 in Chicago in the Group C opener for both teams.

Josef Martinez scored a 15th minute goal and Jamaica’s Rodolph Austin was given a red card in the 23rd minute, which changed the dynamic of the rest of the match.

Jamaica hit the goal frame in each half, a Je-Vaughn Watson header off a corner kick in the 12th minute and a Michael Hector curling shot in the 48th, but was unable to score.

“I think it shows our camaraderie and our team spirit that we didn’t concede another goal and we kept on going,” said Jamaica forward Giles Barnes, who plays for the Houston Dynamo. “We still went forward, we still created chances.“

Andre Blake of the Philadelphia Union played his part to keep the Jamaicans in it with an impressive diving save after a diving header from Wuilker Angel in the second half. Blake and Barnes were two of five Jamaican starters who play in Major League Soccer.

One of the big storylines for the match was the status of Wes Morgan. The Jamaican defender captained Leicester City to the English Premier League title this past season, but was a late arrival to Jamaica’s training camp.

Neutral fans were probably hoping to see a Premier League-winning captain in person. They had to wait until the 40th minute when he replaced Kemar Lawrence, who left with a groin injury.

“I only trained twice since I joined up with the squad and the boys have been together in camp for over a week and they had a performance against Chile,” Morgan said. “I feel like I could have done with a few more training sessions definitely. The manager asked me how I felt so I said I felt OK. I let him make the decision.”

As for that manager, Winfried Schaefer was sent off by the referee after halftime, which added an extra unusual element to the match.

Jamaica didn’t allow any goals after Morgan entered the match, but the damage was already done.

“By the time Wes Morgan entered the match we were already in control,” Venezuela manager Rafael Dudamel said through a translator.

Both Jamaica and Venezuela are underdogs to advance from Group C with Mexico and Uruguay as the heavy favorites to take the top two spots. Jamaica is in a deeper hole and will next take on Mexico at the Rose Bowl on Thursday in a rematch of the 2015 Gold Cup final. Venezuela faces off against Uruguay in Philadelphia on the same day.

As for what’s next for Soldier Field, the U.S. will take on Costa Rica on Tuesday. The Americans are coming off a 2-0 loss to Colombia while Costa Rica drew 0-0 with Paraguay. It is virtually a must-win if the U.S. is to advance out of the group.

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.