Yallop: Open Cup a chance for Fire to get 'ship straightened'


Yallop: Open Cup a chance for Fire to get 'ship straightened'

Leading up to the Chicago Fire's fourth round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against Louisville City FC on June 16, the challenges of confronting a first-year USL side were perhaps somewhat underestimated.   

Second and third round victories over Lansing United (NPSL) and Indy Eleven (NASL) built momentum for James O'Connor's outfit, which nearly stunted the Men in Red's progress into the Round of 16. It was an aggravating performance that didn't sit well with head coach Frank Yallop, who, in his post match thoughts, was of the opinion that the Fire "were sleep walking through it and not applying ourselves."  

The Fire will have another go at a third-division club - the second in two weeks - as Mike Jeffries's Charlotte Independence visit Toyota Park Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. For Yallop - with an eye on Friday's MLS clash with the Houston Dynamo - deploying the strongest possible lineup will be troublesome while having to bear the brunt of a depleted group.

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"With our injury situation, there's not a lot of guys we can choose from right now," he said Monday via teleconference. "We'll have a strong lineup. We're trying to win the match; we want to do well in this competition. We'll lick our wounds and get ready for Friday, which will be a tough game for us going into Houston.

"Nothing changes. We're just trying to get the ship straightened and going in the right direction. It starts tomorrow night. We'll have strong lineups in both games to try to win them."

Since returning from international duty, David Accam's hamstring strain has kept the Ghanaian out of training and, along with fellow Designated Player Shaun Maloney (bulging disc), remains out of contention for Tuesday's fixture and is doubtful for Friday's trip to Houston.

Meanwhile, Patrick Nyarko, who last featured on October 18, 2014, will likely be on the bench Tuesday. Mike Magee, who's appeared in two of the Fire's last three MLS matches, "should be starting" against Charlotte, according to Yallop. Before departing for CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with Trinidad and Tobago Wednesday, Joevin Jones will also be available for selection. 

[MORE: Fire trade Quincy Amarikwa to San Jose, acquire Ty Harden]

With a route similar to that of Louisville's - wins over NPSL and NASL opposition in the previous stages - the Independence enter Tuesday's fixture fresh off a fourth-round triumph against the New England Revolution and are one of two non-MLS sides remaining in the competition.     

Led by captain Jorge Herrera, the midfield pivot and architect of the half-volley that sunk the Revolution, and former Polish international forward Tomasz Zahorski, Charlotte boast an ensemble of several players with MLS exposure. Among them is University of North Carolina standout Enzo Martinez and University of Connecticut product Carlos Alvarez, one of four Colorado Rapids loanees at Jeffries' disposal. Ryan Finley, a teammate of Harry Shipp at Notre Dame, has also found his form with a team-leading four goals.        

Yallop, commending USL's pedigree and Charlotte's resolve to come away with a win at New England, knows the talk of stringing results together has yet to manifest itself concretely. Progressing to the quarterfinal, however, could do well to help quell the pain of four consecutive league defeats.

“It’s a game that we want to come out and be on the front foot and push and try and get an early goal if we can,” he added. “Talking about it and doing it are two different things. I’m just excited to see how we come out and our demeanor. We’ve chatted a lot as a team. We’ve got to now start to dig deep and start to get results. I keep saying it, but we’ve got to start doing it.”

The match, slated for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, will stream live on with the broadcast tandem of Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan on the call.

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.