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New minority owner could signal changes for Chicago Fire

Jul 11, 2018; Bridgeview, IL, USA; Philadelphia Union forward David Accam (7) celebrates after scoring a game winning goal against the Chicago Fire during the second half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. The Chicago Fire lost to the Philadelphia Union 4-3 on Wednesday, but two bigger stories off the field stole the show, including a new Fire owner.

Here are three things that stood out from a busy news day for the Fire:

New owner in town

Fire owner Andrew Hauptman doesn’t have the best reputation among fans.

Hauptman bought the team in 2007. The Fire have two playoff appearances since 2009, and both of those were one-and-done home defeats.

On Wednesday afternoon the club announced that Joe Mansueto acquired a 49 percent stake in the team. Hauptman remains the controlling shareholder and chairman, with Mansueto assuming the title of vice chairman.

“After getting to know Joe over the past several months, it is clear we both share a common vision and ambition for the club and the enormous continued potential for Major League Soccer in Chicago,” Hauptman said in a statement released by the Fire.

Mansueto founded Morningstar, an investment research firm based in Chicago, in 1984 and stepped down as CEO in 2016.

Given Hauptman’s reputation among fans, it’s no surprise this was announced in the second half of a World Cup semifinal, on the day Aleksandar Katai was signed through at least 2019 and the team hosted Philadelphia in a big game in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

The long-term implications of the ownership change aren’t clear yet, but Morningstar comes with plenty of financial resources. While the terms of the deal were not announced, getting a billionaire to buy into the team is a good sign for the health of the business side for the Fire.

It also brings more big money into Chicago soccer after Cubs owner Tom Ricketts bought into a planned USL expansion team, which has plans for a stadium in Chicago. It will take time to see how this plays out, but any time there are significant changes in ownership it’s a big deal.

Katai produces again after signing new deal

Aleksandar Katai continues to make plays for the Fire. On the day his new contract was made official, Katai drew a penalty kick.

The winger made a run to get behind Philadelphia’s defense and got tripped in the box. Nemanja Nikolic converted. It won’t count in the stats, but Katai made the play.

In the second half, Katai finished it off himself with what is becoming a familiar move. Katai cut in from the left wing and drilled a low shot just inside the far post for his ninth goal of the season.

Playoff implications

Looking past the off-the-field news from Wednesday, it was an important game in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Montreal, which entered the day in sixth place, lost 3-0 at New York City FC. That gave an opening for both the Fire and the Union. This was the Union’s second win against the Fire this season.

The Union are now tied with the Impact on points and one point ahead of the Fire with a game in hand on each.

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