Fire

Fire battle second-place New England in Foxborough

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Fire battle second-place New England in Foxborough

The last time the Chicago Fire bagged a victory at Gillette Stadium, a third-minute goal by Quincy Amarikwa - his sixth of the season - and Sean Johnson's 84th-minute save to deny Chris Tierney on a penalty kick secured all three points for the visitors in a 1-0 win on July 12, 2014. Since then, the Men in Red have yet to walk away victorious on their travels, a dry spell spanning 14 MLS regular season matches.

With two games in hand on their longtime Eastern Conference rival, the result will surely be etched in the minds of the nine current Men in Red who played their part as the Fire travel to Foxborough to face 2014 MLS Cup finalist New England Revolution. Saturday's regular-season meeting (6:30 p.m. CT on CSN) will mark the 50th all-time between the sides.  

While New England aims to regroup following a late 2-0 collapse against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park, Frank Yallop is hoping to keep his players on an even keel after throwing away a 2-1 lead last Saturday, falling 3-2 at the hands of Orlando City SC.

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"We were all shocked last week where I felt we should have won the game," said Yallop after training Thursday. "Two (losses) in a row, but every team is in the same boat in our league; no one's running away with it. 

"We've got a couple of games in hand on the teams ahead of us. We've just got to start to realize that we can win games; we've played well enough to win. It's pretty close, and I've liked what I've seen going forward. It's just the individual and collective things late in games that's really hurt us."

Three of the previous five matches have seen the ninth-placed Fire squander leads, dating back to late drama in the 2-2 draw versus New York City FC in the Bronx on May 15. The latest two-game stretch that's seen the Men in Red come up empty-handed involved shipping a combined six goals at D.C. United and at home to Orlando.

As David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike continue to hit form - accounting for five of the Men in Red's eight goals in the previous four matches - the materialization and potency of Yallop's strikeforce is reverberating through the league as MLS sides struggle to keep the Designated Players' pace in check. But with a fixture against Jay Heaps' outfit looming and the danger posed by Teal Bunbury, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Charlie Davies and Juan Agudelo, the second-year head coach is calling for more solidarity and coherence on the defensive front.    

[MORE FIRE: Accam, Jones called up to Ghana, Trinidad and Tobago]

"They have a lot of movement in their team; they don't really have static players, so we've got to stay in our good team shape," Yallop said. "If we could have put a couple of halves together in our away performances - D.C., New York and Columbus in the second half - we'd be fine. But we've got to put 90 minutes together and that's the hard part. It's similar to hockey: you play well in the first period, but it doesn't really matter. You've got to play well for three periods and it's the same with soccer: two halves.  

"We have to have good shape because they are a good side and they create chances. We've got to be disciplined, be in good shape and make sure we defend correctly as a unit, everybody from the forwards to the goalkeeper."

Without Accam (Ghana), Shaun Maloney (Scotland) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago) - all away on international duty - the defensive and attacking onus will rest on the shoulders of some new faces as the Fire seek to dissolve the Revolution's unbeaten record at home. Despite going winless in their last six matches, New England hasn't lost at Gillette Stadium since last July.

"There will be some guys that haven't played for a little bit playing (on Saturday)," Yallop added. "You've got to keep the majority of the team that's done well for you. In performances, you don't change everybody because we've conceded a couple of goals that have been - if you look at the goals we have conceded over the last four or five games - not just because of one guy. It's been a combination of things.

"We've just got to keep going, stay positive, and turn it around. We're still right there in the hunt. It's a big game on Saturday and we're looking forward to it."        

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.