Yallop on Fire's draw with NYCFC: 'We just stopped playing'


Yallop on Fire's draw with NYCFC: 'We just stopped playing'

In one of the most grueling matches of its season to date, the Chicago Fire were unable to withstand late pressure from 10-man New York City FC in a pulsating second half, emerging with a 2-2 result in front of 23,315 at Yankee Stadium.

Behind a first-ever goal from Romanian midfielder Razvan Cocis and a penalty kick from captain Jeff Larentowicz - and goals in first- and second-half stoppage time from NYCFC - the Men in Red secured their first draw of 2015 on Friday night.

Showing an astute and spirited initiative, the Fire nearly opened the scoring in the seventh minute, as Scotsman Shaun Maloney turned the ball into the back of the net, only to be dubiously flagged for offsides.

The Men in Red continued to pose a threat for the hosts in the opening quarter of an hour, with David Accam latching on to an expertly weighted pass over the top of a wobbly NYCFC defense in the 10th minute, heading his effort straight into the hands of ‘keeper Josh Saunders.

Four minutes later, Yallop’s side broke the deadlock after Maloney’s quickly taken free kick found Cocis, who strode into the box unmarked and glanced a header over Saunders to give the Fire a deserved advantage and supply the midfielder with his first MLS goal.

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Accam, who returned after serving his one-match suspension in the team’s 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake, tormented the home side all night long and, just as in their initial meeting on April 24, led to NYCFC’s undoing in the 26th minute.

After picking up the ball in the opposition half, the Ghanaian international closed in on goal with just Saunders to beat. After being taken down from behind by RJ Allen - drawing a straight red card in the process - a penalty kick ensued, which was calmly stroked home by captain Jeff Larentowicz.

Despite putting in arguably their most polished first half performance, a mental lapse in the backline allowed for David Villa to unleash a shot at Sean Johnson, which was spilled only for Mehdi Ballouchy to capitalize and give the home side an unforeseen jolt on the stroke of halftime after being thoroughly outplayed.

"It was probably the best we’ve played in a long time in the first 44 minutes," said Yallop after the match. "There could have been more. I just talked to the guys in there and I’m just disappointed in how we handled the second half. We just stopped playing.

The goal right before halftime obviously gives them hope, then you’ve just got to get one goal to get a tie. I just felt that we allowed them to play when we shouldn’t have. We had chances to bury the game as well, but still, we shouldn’t give them a chance. We’re just disappointed.”

[RELATED: Heedful of NYCFC's high-press system, Fire hope to wrest first road win]

In a fiery second half, both sides went toe-to-toe, exchanging punch after punch. After yellow cards were dished out to Larentowicz, Joevin Jones and Maloney within a span of seven minutes, the closing stages opened the door for NYCFC to push on and snatch an equalizer, which eventually arrived in stoppage time.

Good awareness and tight maneuvering from Villa resulted in the Spaniard relinquishing the ball to rookie Khiry Shelton, who cropped up in the box tucked his left-footed shot past Johnson and into the back of the net in the 91st minute for his first career MLS tally.

“The first half was probably as good as we’ve played all season," Maloney said. "I think as a team and as a whole we have to be really brave when we are in this position.

"We were a little bit too predictable. Without condensing the middle of the pitch and then going wide I think it was far easier for them to defend us.”

The Fire will be left to rue what might have been after being on the cusp of its first away win of the season. Still, the draw moves the Men in Red up to fifth place on 10 points in the Eastern Conference for the time being. Yallop's side will continue its stretch of seven consecutive matches against Eastern Conference opposition with an away fixture at Columbus Crew SC on May 22.

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz, Adailton, Joevin Jones; Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis; David Accam (Jason Johnson, 88'), Shaun Maloney, Harry Shipp (Michael Stephens, 71'); Kennedy Igboananike (Quincy Amarikwa, 68'). 

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.