Fire

Fire hope 'fantastic fightback' at Union carries over vs. Rapids

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Fire hope 'fantastic fightback' at Union carries over vs. Rapids

When Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop set about prying offensive-minded talent during the offseason, the investment in David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike and Shaun Maloney signaled Yallop's belief that the Men in Red - bolstered by a triumvirate of highly touted, designated player acquisitions - were to be an "exciting team to watch," and a balanced one at that.

Through 23 games in the MLS regular season and on the heels of a shattering withdrawal from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals, the pendulum has swung every which way for the Fire (6-12-5, 23 points), who face the Colorado Rapids (5-9-9, 24 points) Saturday night at Toyota Park (7:30 p.m. CT; CSN) desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive.  

“We’ve had a few games where we’ve not looked like we were that interested in playing,” Yallop told reporters Tuesday via teleconference. “Sometimes lack of confidence looks like lack of effort, but what I will say about Sunday, I think that that was a fantastic fight-back display against a team that’s home that’s beaten us on Wednesday. We had to come back and show that we weren’t going to give up, and we didn’t. ... Hopefully that'll be a springboard for the next two games to get results."

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Igboananike, whose designated player contract was bought down to make way for the signing of Brazilian forward Gilberto before the close of the secondary transfer window, produced a gritty, two-goal and one-assist display on Sunday, while Accam's lingering hamstring issues confined the Ghanaian to the bench as the Fire's shambolic defensive performance - but for Sean Johnson's heroics - demanded a three-goal outing to help snatch a last-gasp point against the Philadelphia Union.

By the time the Men in Red line up against the Rapids, however, Maloney - eight months after his arrival from Wigan Athletic - will have already left Chicago.

Amid reports in recent weeks confirming the submission of bids from English Championship side Hull City, the Scotland international, who netted thrice for the Men in Red and bagged two assists in 14 appearances, is set to make his return across the pond for family reasons. Yallop, speaking with the Daily Herald after training Thursday, said the deal was all but confirmed, with City boss Steve Bruce expounding on it to local radio Friday morning.     

[RELATED: Fire, Union settle for point in dramatic draw in Philadelphia]

Without the Scotsman, the last-placed Fire will have to press on as the playoff picture could be significantly altered by weekend's end. Fifth-placed Toronto FC (31 points) battle eighth-placed Orlando City SC (28 points) Saturday afternoon before Didier Drogba and sixth-placed Montreal Impact (28 points) clash with ninth-placed Union later on.

Following Saturday's encounter with Pablo Mastroeni's men, Yallop & Co. face stiff tests in the remaining 10 matches against Eastern Conference opponents: a trio of fixtures against high-flying New York Red Bulls; a home-and-home with Orlando City; two visits to Saputo Stadium to face the Impact and games against Toronto, New England Revolution and D.C. United.

“They’ve kept going; they’ve kept fighting,” Yallop said of his group. “We’re a couple of bad mistakes away from being around the playoffs. We’ve just got to put that right. We’ve got to get a couple of good results early now in the next three games. If we can do that, we’re right in the picture.”

Viewing information:

Chicago Fire vs. Colorado Rapids

Kickoff time: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

Broadcast: CSN Chicago         

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.