Yallop implores Fire to show 'fight and spirit' in Columbus


Yallop implores Fire to show 'fight and spirit' in Columbus

The rivalry -- bound by geographical proximity and hostility -- between the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew SC has produced some memorable encounters since its inception in 1998.

History has favored the Men in Red, who've registered 24 victories in 54 league encounters between the two sides. But the Black & Gold have gradually stemmed the tide of the Fire's dominance in their last five MLS meetings -- notching three wins and two ties -- most recently demonstrated in Wednesday night's 1-0 triumph at Toyota Park. A 41st-minute goal from Kei Kamara sealed Crew SC's first win away from home all season, leaving Fire head coach Frank Yallop bemused by a grim first-half performance.        

"You've got to address Wednesday and then let it go," Yallop said Saturday. "We allowed a good team to play at our place and we can't let that happen again. It's a little different now, we're away from home, it's going to be baking hot. I want to see fight and spirit, not just from the start, but for the 90 minutes."

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On Sunday, Crew SC and the Fire converge for the third and final time in 2015, crowning the back end of their home-and-home series at Mapfre Stadium in front of a national audience (4 p.m. CT; ESPN2). The victory in midweek propelled Gregg Berhalter's group to second place in the Eastern Conference table, six points adrift of first-placed D.C. United and a comfortable seven points above the red line. Meanwhile, the Fire -- 11 points behind Crew SC -- are hoping to draw on a 2-2 draw against Columbus on May 22 as motivation to perhaps emerge from the Arch City with another result.

The Black & Gold have compiled a 6-2-2 record at home, losing out only to the New York Red Bulls in late March and the Montreal Impact on June 6. Moored to the foot of the standings on 18 points, the Men in Red know full well the task that lies ahead as they seek to buck the possibility of giving in to another losing trend.    

"I think it's been pretty solid," Yallop said when questioned about his team's leadership. "It's never easy when you're not winning and it's never easy when you haven't got the same lineup. You can't lead from the treatment room. It's about being on the field and doing it, and we've not had our most experienced players -- Jeff [Larentowicz], Shaun [Maloney] -- that much. It's hurt us a little bit.

"Leadership grows. You can't just snap your fingers, sign one guy and all of a sudden everyone gets led by him. It's got to grow and mature. I think we're in a position now where we're still behind, but we still have a chance. We're getting some of our guys back, and if we add to the squad -- which we're trying to do -- and get everyone on the field, we have no issues with it. In the meantime, when you're not winning it's tough."

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With matches coming thick and fast, the prospect of a quick turnaround -- pending Sunday's outcome -- could bode well for Yallop's delegation, which is relishing the opportunity to do a number on their counterparts and exact revenge for Wednesday's aftermath. 

"I'm excited about it, the guys can't wait to get after it," Yallop added. "They know that that [Columbus game] wasn't us. There's nothing better than a few days later, you get a chance to put it right. Columbus are a good side, I've said it all along. They're a good side at full strength. 

"I'm going to change our lineup just to be fresh. It's game management with our squad. With a Saturday-Wednesday schedule, bodies break down and we can't afford that right now. Guys will get a chance to play and hopefully it gets us a good result." 

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.