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News Roundup: Niko, Nagasato, & More

Some quick hits from around Chicago Soccer

MLS: MLS All-Star Training Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve got a big day in Chicago Soccer coming up. The Fire travel to Cow-lumbus to take on That Yellow Team later tonight, while the Red Stars host playoff rivals Portland. Kickoff in the two games will be separated by all of 30 minutes, so if you love Chicago Soccer, you’ve got a real feast to look forward to tonight.

There’s a lot to sort through ahead of both matches. Let’s check in with some of the latest stories.

Niko Declines Hungary Caps To Focus On The Fire

Fire striker and MLS Golden Boot contender Nemanja Nikolic made a huge announcement yesterday— he won’t be playing with Hungary for their upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

Niko went into greater detail on Instagram.

Nikolic currently has 16 goals for the Fire this season. He’s led the league Golden Boot race for much of 2017, although he’s currently one goal behind David Villa thanks to the latter’s hat trick against the Red Bulls last weekend. Answering a call-up from Hungary would’ve meant missing at least two crucial Eastern Conference clashes next month, away at Montreal and at home against the Red Bulls.

Unsurprisingly, Fire fans have reacted warmly to Niko’s announcement.

Nagasato Finally Joins The Red Stars

After being stuck with an injury for over two months, Japan international Yuki Nagasato has finally joined the Red Stars’ active roster.

The 30-year-old striker signed for Chicago on May 24th, but a knee injury prevented her from starting right away. She remained in Japan to rehabilitate the knee and is no cleared to play. We don’t know what, if any, role she’ll have to play in tonight’s match against Portland. Watch this space.

In further Red Stars roster news, the team released fringe midfielder Mary Luba to make room in the squad for Nagasato.

De Leeuw Fined

The MLS Disciplinary Committee released its list of retroactive punishments yesterday. Among the decisions handed down: an undisclosed fine for Fire forward Michael de Leeuw for simulation/embellishment.

Here’s the incident in question, which happened during last weekend’s 4-1 home win over the New England Revolution. You be the judge.

Michael Stephens On David Accam

This week’s episode of Howler Media podcast “The Play”— and, incidentally, the last episode of the series— featured former Fire player Michael Stephens. The 28-year-old central midfielder spent two years in Chicago before moving the San Francisco Deltas this past offseason.

Toward the end of the episode, the panelists talked about which players work hard in training and which don’t, and whether that has any bearing on their performance on the pitch. Stephens offered an interesting anecdote; he singled out current Fire winger David Accam as the best player on the team, while having the dubious distinction of being the least hardworking member of the squad.

Obviously, this is Stephens’ own thoughts, and his observation here may or may not be accurate or fair. Still, an interesting perspective.

A Profile On #S8OT

Finally, a small bit of shameless self-promotion.

Over on MLSSoccer.com, I wrote about Section 8 fans who make the semiannual trek to Columbus to defend Firehouse East. The profile includes quotes from some longtime fans, including current and former S8C board members.

Here’s an excerpt:

A longtime Fire fan who goes by “Giaco” explained that the emergence of the chant speaks to the culture and sense of community in Section 8.

“I still remember the first time we really tried to get ‘Urbs In Horto' off the ground,” says Giaco. “Away games and practice games are where we see if new songs get any traction. To this day I have very happy visions of Marcin, our former chairman and capo, trying his damndest to read the words and lead us in song off a completely disintegrated and soaked song sheet that we had printed for those who didn't know the words.

And Marcin, didn't know the words! Yet somehow, it worked. We all laughed and sang completely soaked with nothing else to do but support our Men In Red and let them know that we were there for them and making the best of it — as we expected them to do as well."

You can read the full article here.