Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty providing big personalities for Fire

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USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty providing big personalities for Fire

After not having a clear leader before last season, the Fire now have two big personalities leading the way in Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Both made an early impression on rookie midfielder Mo Adams, who also left an impression of sorts on McCarty.

“The first training session we had, I got a little kick from Mo Adams and I enjoyed that, I enjoyed that quite a bit actually,” McCarty said. “I like young players and I like rookies that have attitude and that have personality and that aren’t afraid of supposed bigger guys or veteran guys. I really enjoy that. He apologized to me after that and I was like, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it man. This is competition. I love it.’”

Adams, selected 10th in Friday’s draft by the Fire after trading up for the pick, said he didn’t want to change anything about himself as a player just because he was a rookie.

“I’m the kind of guy that will get stuck into challenges and stuff,” Adams said. “It’s what brought me here and I’m going to continue doing that. I think I’ve got great mentors in Dax and obviously Bastian and I’m going to kind of remain grounded and see what they do and just try to get that on board and of course their experience and stuff, there’s a lot to take in, but I’m certainly shocked that I call them my teammates right now. It’s a fantastic experience.”

The Englishman recalled his first time meeting Schweinsteiger and told the story with a grin on his face.

“He sits across me in the locker room,” Adams said. “I remember the first time he walked in, I shook his hand and I was like ‘What’s up, man?’ I’ve watched this guy throughout his years in the Bundesliga and I’m a [Manchester] United fan, too, so watching him play in the Premier League was amazing. Now to play alongside him in practice and hopefully games in the future is going to be something to look forward to.”

Adams plays in central midfield and will likely be the backup to Schweinsteiger and McCarty. McCarty was captain of the New York Red Bulls before the Fire traded for him and Schweinsteiger’s resume tends to draw respect from opponents and teammates. Both players have turned into the faces of the Fire and give younger players like Adams recognizable figures to gravitate towards.

For Schweinsteiger, returning to the Fire and getting a full preseason to prepare after joining three games into the season last year is a notable difference from a year ago.

“I remember the first game was not easy on the field to remember who is who, you know the names,” Schweinsteiger said of his Fire debut last April. “Of course I settled in and for me it’s very important to have a preseason and work... on a lot of things that we are prepared for the long season. Last year it was not so easy. We still, I think, did very well, but of course I think it’s going to be an advantage now to work together from the first day on.”

While Schweinsteiger is with the team in the preseason, more additions are still expected. Rafael Ramos is the only player added so far this offseason who isn’t a rookie and he likely won’t be a regular starter. McCarty doesn’t think having players arrive in the middle of the preseason is problematic.

“I think you can look at it two ways,” McCarty said. “Yeah, it’s great to have everyone that you’re going to have going forward in preseason so you can get some continuity. Guys can get to know each other’s tendencies, but I think you can also look at it like when Basti came in. He didn’t have a preseason with us. He came in three or four games into the season and didn’t miss a beat. He made us better right away so if you’re signing players of that quality and that caliber I don’t think it really matters if they have a preseason or not.”

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.