Fire

Fire play to scoreless draw with Columbus

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Fire play to scoreless draw with Columbus

It wasn't the most exciting match, but the Chicago Fire earned a draw for the second straight match.

The Fire played to a 0-0 draw with the visiting Columbus Crew on Saturday. Neither team created many chances with just five shots on goal combined and just one of those shots coming from the Fire.

The biggest news of the game came in the lineups before the match when it was announced that David Accam had a knee sprain and was not available. Accam, who has two goals and an assist in two matches, has been the Fire's best player this season. His absence meant the Fire's attack was significantly shorthanded and it showed.

“David is very important for us," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Obviously his quality in counterattack, but also his speed and also his talent is very important for us.

“We didn’t change. We played the same system. The only thing is we played against a very, very good team. This is what we have to understand. Also I believe we were very focused on our defensive game plan, which we did very well.”

It was the third straight game the Fire were playing without a regular starter, with John Goossens missing the opener and Gilberto sitting out in Orlando. Accam was recently called into Ghana's national team, but will also not play in Ghana's two upcoming qualifiers.

Without Accam sparking the attack, the Fire (0-1-2) struggled to create chances and to keep possession of the ball. Meanwhile, the Fire's five-man defense was able to hold off the Crew (0-2-1).

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Goossens also picked up an injury on Saturday, being subbed out at halftime with a hamstring injury, according to Paunovic. Once Paunovic subbed on Nick LaBrocca, who made his club debut, for Kennedy Igboananike in the 60th minute the Fire were better in possession, but still neither team could score.

"This is the defensive performance that we need," Paunovic said. "I think we needed more clarity, more possession and that’s what we missed. In order to get opportunities sometimes you have to counterattack, but you also have to have good possession of the ball and that’s what we lacked today.”

The Fire's defense has gone from poor in the first match, giving up four goals to New York City FC, to just one allowed in Orlando while playing most of the match a man down, to now a shutout. The team is putting the positive spin on the defensive side despite the lack of offense.

“I think it was very important (to get a shutout)," defender Jonathan Campbell said. "Coming from the first game then to the next game, only giving up one goal, and for this one zero. I think it’s big improvement for us and something we can build off of.”

The Fire return to action against Philadelphia on April 2, also in Toyota Park, after taking a weekend off for the international window.

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.