Fire

Yallop’s second half substitutions pay dividends in Fire’s draw with Crew SC

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Yallop’s second half substitutions pay dividends in Fire’s draw with Crew SC

In its second consecutive fixture against an Eastern Conference opponent, the Chicago Fire snatched a late equalizer to earn a vital 2-2 draw against Columbus Crew SC Friday night.

Kei Kamara’s strikes in the eighth and 55th minutes - his eighth and ninth of 2015 - catapulted him above Clint Dempsey to the top of the MLS goalscoring chart, but goals from David Accam and Jason Johnson capped off a late surge from the Men in Red.

"Any time you can come back in a game like this is huge, against a very good team too," said head coach Frank Yallop after the match. "So, you got something out of the game and you come back, and I think the boys are really happy. I felt we, to be honest, we could’ve won it. We had the chances I thought late, but Columbus had a few as well so it was a pretty even game."

The brute, attacking force of Justin Meram, Federico Higuain, Ethan Finlay and Kei Kamara was felt early on as the latter’s nonstop running kept the Fire’s back four on its toes. And it didn’t take long before the Sierra Leonean’s persistence paid off.

Following some skillful interplay, Meram was able to find a hint of space to thread a ball to Finlay, who unselfishly squared the ball to Kamara only for the in-form striker to tap in to give Crew SC an early 1-0 advantage.

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For the remainder of the first half, it was Crew SC who piled on the pressure while complacency began to set in just before the halftime whistle. Spurned opportunities and key saves from Jon Busch - who became the fourth player in MLS history to hit a 300-game milestone - left a pedestrian Fire somewhat relieved as Frank Yallop’s side went into the break still within arm’s reach.

Despite showing more gumption at the start of the second half, the Fire fell victim to Kamara yet again. In the 55th minute, an Higuain corner kick found the head of Kevan George, whose redirected effort landed at Busch’s back post for Kamara to nod home for his third brace of the season and give Crew SC a comfortable 2-0 lead.

The 35 minutes that ensued demonstrated flashes of the Men in Red’s collapse at the hands of New York City FC last week, when Yallop’s outfit succumbed to a late rally from the expansion side to only come away with a 2-2 draw. Only against Gregg Berhalter’s delegation, it was the Fire who took on the role of the aggressor and seized control of the match.

Three minutes after Kamara found the back of the net, Accam got on the end of a Kennedy Igboananike cross to nod home from close range, pulling the Fire back within a goal.

[RELATED: Fire seek to quell Crew SC's home form with three points]

With sustained pressure, second half substitutions from Yallop proved to be the difference on the night. As Crew SC sat back in their defensive half, Quincy Amarikwa and Jason Johnson provided the spark that perhaps went missing in a lax first half outing.

Just as it appeared as if luck was not on the Fire’s side - as Amarikwa ringed shots off the post and woodwork - it was Johnson who came to the Men in Red’s rescue. The former Houston Dynamo forward latched onto a cross from Eric Gehrig to head past a stranded Steve Clark in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time to give Yallop’s outfit a deserved point from Columbus.

"[I’m] very happy," Yallop said. "You put them on for a reason ... I said to the guys, well done to the team that started, but well done to the subs. They really made a difference in the match, seeing them sort through and could’ve won the game. So very happy with the all-around squad today."

It wasn’t pretty, but the Fire likely won’t be too bothered. After last week’s 2-2 draw elicited feelings of disappointment and regret, Friday’s 2-2 draw at MAPFRE Stadium will feel more like a win as the Men in Red return to Toyota Park next week to face the Montreal Impact.

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-2-3-1): Jon Busch; Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Adailton, Joevin Jones; Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis (Quincy Amarikwa, 71'); Harry Shipp (Jason Johnson, 67'), Shaun Maloney, David Accam; Kennedy Igboananike (Guly do Prado, 83')

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.