Fire

Early second-half goal sees Fire fall on the road to Timbers

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Early second-half goal sees Fire fall on the road to Timbers

On the road and in a hostile environment, the Chicago Fire slipped to their 12th defeat of the season, falling to the Portland Timbers, 1-0, Friday night.

A redirected shot from close range from forward Fanendo Adi three minutes into the second half propelled Caleb Porter's side to its 10th victory of 2015. Meanwhile, the Fire's winless streak in league play on their travels extended to 18 matches, leaving them stranded in ninth place on 22 points in the Eastern Conference standings.

"It’s kind of one of those plays, I think everyone is in pretty good spots and it just kind of ricocheted straight to them and it just hits him and goes in," head coach Frank Yallop said after the match. "Our final pass just wasn’t quite there, but in general I thought we defended well against a team that’s difficult to play against, especially on this surface at home.”  

Yallop trotted out the same group that downed FC Dallas, 2-0, on Sunday. It was the first time since May 22 (vs. Columbus Crew SC) and May 30 (vs. Montreal Impact) that the second-year head coach elected to dish out identical starting lineups in back-to-back matches.

[RELATED: Fire take on Timbers with Gilberto 'in very good shape'

Both sides struggled to muster anything worth noting in the opening stages, engaging in a sloppy and scoreless first half at Providence Park. Harry Shipp's right-footed curler at the 15-minute mark, along with a blunder from Portland 'keeper Adam Kwarasey that nearly gifted Jason Johnson an open-netter in the 33rd minute were the only meaningful chances of note for the visitors.   

Portland's Rodney Wallace and Fanendo Adi hit the back of the net twice in two minutes, but both efforts were ruled out for offside after the midfielder and forward streaked in behind the Fire defense.

Despite playing a high defensive line and leaving themselves exposed at the back at times - while having to cope with Designated Player David Accam's premature exit in the 43rd minute with groin tightness - the Men in Red limited the hosts to not a single shot on target through the opening 45 minutes.

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Commended for weathering the first-half storm, the Fire found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline in the 48th minute. Diego Valeri's deflected cross from the right flank wasn't dealt with properly, with the back line looking on as Sean Johnson's punch met Adi, who poked home to give the hosts a favorable advantage.  

The Fire grew into the game gradually as the half wore on, carving out a decent opportunity in the 72nd minute via second-half substitute Kennedy Igboananike. A free kick from Shaun Maloney met the Nigerian in the box, whose header trickled just wide of Kwarasey's left post.

With Igboananike and Maloney combining four minutes from time - the Nigerian controlling and teeing up the Scotsman for a one-timer at the edge of the area - Maloney's shot went wide of Kwarasey's frame, signaling the end to a forgettable night for the Men in Red in the Pacific Northwest.

Next up is a pivotal and potentially season-defining Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal bout with the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.

"We got one more hurdle to get through to be in the final and there is no better time to go now and on a Wednesday night to go and try to do that," Yallop added. "We’re excited. We have to let this one go because I spoke to the guys today and they gave me everything they had. I thought the effort was fantastic. I thought we tried hard and gave 100 percent, we just didn’t quite get it done tonight, but we’re going to now focus on Wednesday and try to get a result there.”

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs):

(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer; Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis, Shaun Maloney; David Accam (Patrick Nyarko, 43'); Jason Johnson (Kennedy Igboananike, 68').

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.