What’s in the future for the U.S. national team? Perhaps two Fire players


What’s in the future for the U.S. national team? Perhaps two Fire players

In the aftermath of the U.S. national team failing to qualify for the World Cup, fans are somewhere in the stages of grief.

Past that is a chance to look ahead to the future. The U.S. men don’t play a competitive game at the senior level until the 2019 Gold Cup. There’s always a long gap after a World Cup, but add another eight months to that by missing out on the World Cup and that becomes a very long time between truly meaningful matches.

What that gap should provide is an opportunity for younger players newer to the national team setup to get more chances in the coming months. Two players that may be given those chances are Fire fullbacks Brandon Vincent, 23, and Matt Polster, 24.

Vincent, the Fire’s second-year left back who has shown notable improvement from his rookie season, has already been capped with the senior national team. He appeared as a substitute against Canada in a friendly in February 2016. He was a part of the annual January camps where a group of mostly MLS players in their offseasons join the national team while the European-based players remain with their clubs while those seasons hit the midway point.

Polster has moved between a central defensive midfield role and right back in his three seasons with the Fire. He was a part of the failed Olympic qualifying team in 2016 and also took part in that same January camp as Vincent, but did not play. Polster was included in the preliminary roster for this summer’s Gold Cup, but was not selected to the final group.

Both have been key to the Fire’s success this year with the Fire’s streak of six losses in seven matches happening when both were out injured.

Vincent’s reaction to the American failure was more from the fan’s perspective than a player's.

“I don’t know if I’m even close to being in the conversation so it’s more of a fan type view for me,” Vincent said. “It’s gonna be weird not watching them.”

Polster related to some of the younger players on the team he has played with.

“I think the biggest thing is it’s just disappointing for all the guys,” Polster said. “They put a lot of effort in and obviously it didn’t go in their favor. To go through the entire hex and not qualify is disappointing, especially for the young guys like (Christian) Pulisic, (Kellyn) Acosta, (Paul) Arriola…. To not get that experience at a young age is disappointing.”

Polster played right back in Olympic qualifying, but was still playing midfield with the Fire at the time. This season, he has moved to right back and looked better at that spot than he did when he played there as a rookie. Fullbacks have always been hard to come by for the U.S. so Polster could at least be in the conversation going forward. He even had his own ambitions for trying to squeeze into this World Cup roster.

“The ultimate goal was that they’d qualify and hopefully I could make January camp and then I could turn some heads,” Polster said. “That was my thought process and I really wanted to give it a go. Hopefully I can do what I can to maybe help and be a part of it one day.”

If Polster has extra value for playing right back, Vincent may get double points for being a left-footed left back. His national team prospects may be greater than Polster’s for that reason.

“I’ll do everything I can to play as well as I can and improve as much as I can, but getting in that group is out of my hands,” Vincent said. “It’s not really my thing to worry about as long as I produce on the field here in Chicago, that’s all I can focus on.”

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.