Fire

Early goal sends Fire to sixth straight road loss

Early goal sends Fire to sixth straight road loss

Any optimism the Chicago Fire may have had entering Saturday's match in Toronto was quickly wiped away.

The hosts dominated the first 15 minutes of the match, pressing hard and creating plenty of chances. When Justin Morrow scored in the ninth minute, it was a familiar feeling on the road for the Fire.

The Fire could not recover from the early deficit and lost 1-0. It marked the sixth straight road loss and a 33rd straight match without a win for the Fire.

Before the match, there was genuine reason to think the Fire (3-8-5, 14 points) could get a result. Toronto (6-6-5, 23 points) was riddled with injuries to key players while the Fire are as healthy as they've been all season and had won their previous two matches. However, both of those wins came at Toyota Park.

Whatever the reason, the Fire can't shake this road skid. Major League Soccer is a tough league to play in on the road. The Fire are one of five teams winless on the road this season and another six teams have just one road win in 2016.

Toronto outshot the Fire 25-11 (6-2 on target), which was a fair indication of how one-sided the match was. The Fire had stretches of possession towards the end of the first half, but rarely broke down Toronto's defense.

In the second half, Michael de Leeuw replaced Michael Stephens to make his Fire debut. The Dutch forward was up top in a 4-2-3-1 formation with David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike and John Goossens (later replaced by Arturo Alvarez) sitting just underneath him. De Leeuw was not able to make a big impact in the match.

Igboananike had the Fire's best chance of the match. In the 64th minute, he chased down a long ball in the left corner, cut inside onto his right foot and rifled a shot off the crossbar.

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Coach Veljko Paunovic went with the same starting lineup as he did in the 1-0 win against San Jose last weekend. Alvarez and de Leeuw were additions on the bench and both came on as substitutes.

Matt Polster, who is still on his way back from a concussion, was not on the bench. Paunovic and the Fire are giving Polster more time to recover his health and fitness. He had been a regular participant in training this week.

The Fire return home to face Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.

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.

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof involved in car crash on Thursday morning

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USA TODAY

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof involved in car crash on Thursday morning

Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof was involved in a car accident on his way to practice Thursday morning that sent him to the hospital with minor injuries.

According to authorities and the Secretary of State’s Office, a box truck crashed into the Dutch player’s 2013 Volkswagen and another vehicle in the 5900 block of South Harlem. Kappelhof’s vehicle rolled over and two people fled from the scene.

The driver ran on foot and the passenger moved into the driver’s seat before driving the truck onto the Stevenson Expressway after the crash, officials said. After the damaged vehicle broke down, police say the same passenger tried to jump into the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Both were taken into custody.

Team officials said Kappelhof was treated and released from the hospital without indicators of a concussion. The 27-year-old was reportedly seen at Toyota Park after the crash and did not have any serious injuries. The other driver who was hit by the box truck was also treated, police said.

This season in league play with the Fire, Kappelhof has three assists in 16 games. The international product was a 2017 MLS All-Star and the Defensive Player of the Year for the Fire last season. He was signed in 2016 and has made one MLS Cup Playoffs appearance.