Tony Tchani adjusting quickly to Fire after being surprised by trade

Chicago Fire

Tony Tchani adjusting quickly to Fire after being surprised by trade

When Tony Tchani started the Fire’s preseason finale against Tulsa on Saturday, it was hard to tell that he had been with the team for only one training session before that game.

The Fire traded for Tchani, sending $150,000 of Targeted Allocation Money to Vancouver, on Wednesday and his first practice with the team was Friday.

“I feel like he was with us all this time and also I have the feeling that he feels the same,” coach Veljko Paunovic said after Saturday’s game. “Immediately when we spoke (Friday), from the first session we had that walkthrough and preparation for the game, he understood everything perfectly.”

Tchani played with Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger, arguably the two most important players on the Fire’s roster, in central midfield. Tchani and McCarty played more defensive roles while Schweinsteiger had the freedom to be more involved in the attack.

Tchani has been in MLS since 2010 and has made 169 career MLS regular season starts with 10 more playoff starts so him fitting in quickly may not be a big surprise.

“I think so far, so good,” Tchani said. “I knew a few guys on the team, which was pretty much easier just to get to know those guys.”

Tchani was teammates with defender Christian Dean in Vancouver before Dean was traded to the Fire last summer. He also played with assistant coach Eric Gehrig for three years in Columbus.

While easing into his new team hasn’t been a difficult challenge for Tchani, the trade did catch him off guard. Vancouver traded defender Tim Parker to the New York Red Bulls for midfielder Felipe Martins and $500,000 of allocation money. Felipe’s addition made Tchani more expendable for Vancouver.

“I was surprised because I had a pretty good preseason so I didn’t expect anything,” Tchani said. “And I played every game. If I would have expected it I was hoping to be at least benched in one of those games to give me a heads up. I think they did a pretty good job hiding it from me.”

Adding another experienced, MLS proven central midfielder to the team provides Paunovic with more flexibility. Tchani can take on a similar role to the one Juninho had last season.

The Brazilian formed a starting midfield trio with McCarty and Schweinsteiger nine times in 2017 similar to the way Tchani joined McCarty and Schweinsteiger on Saturday, but Juninho was also a solid fill-in when either of the Fire stalwarts were unavailable. Juninho made 17 starts last year, but also missed some time due to injury so Tchani could be in line for more minutes this season.

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.