Fire

Fire plug some holes with a pair of depth signings

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USA TODAY

Fire plug some holes with a pair of depth signings

Injuries have depleted the Fire's depth this preseason and with the season opener a day away, the Fire made a pair of signings to fill in at positions especially thin at the moment.

The Fire signed goalkeeper Patrick McLain, who played with the team in 2016, and defender Kevin Ellis, a seven-year league veteran who was a Sporting Kansas City homegrown signing.

McLain fills an immediate need with just two goalkeepers on the roster previously and one of them, expected starter Richard Sanchez, is listed as questionable for Saturday's game with a left elbow injury. McLain gives the Fire two fully healthy goalkeepers, joining second-year player Stefan Cleveland. The 29-year-old made one start with the Fire in 2016, the season finale, and has made three career MLS appearances.

McLain's deal is for one year with club options each of the next two years.

As for Ellis, he gives the Fire a healthy backup at center back. Both Jonathan Campbell (facial fracture) and Grant Lillard (knee) are out for Saturday's game, leaving the Fire with two center backs (Johan Kappelhof and Christian Dean) before Ellis was signed. Ellis was waived by Kansas City on Feb. 27 and joined the Fire as a trialist initially.

Ellis made five starts with SKC last year, but was a regular starter with the team in 2015. He made 26 starts in 2015 and combined for 58 starts and 68 MLS appearances in the past five years. Ellis is signed for one year with the Fire holding an option for 2019.

In addition to the injuries to Campbell and Lillard, and the ACL recoveries of Michael de Leeuw and Djordje Mihailovic, four players are listed as questionable for the season opener: Sanchez, Luis Solignac (left hip), Rafael Ramos (right thigh) and Daniel Johnson (right ankle). This added urgency for the Fire to add extra players to the roster. Solignac was a regular starter last year and Johnson could be in line for more minutes with the departure of Arturo Alvarez, who was the first attacking midfielder/winger off the bench for most of 2017.

The Fire's roster is now at 27 with these two signings along with the recent signings of rookies Elliot Collier and Diego Campos. Trialists Omar Castro and Albert Ruiz are still with the team, but remain unsigned. Maxi Moreira, who was on trial with the Fire for much of the preseason, is no longer with the team.

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.