Fire

Fire to take time off during Copa America break

Fire to take time off during Copa America break

Professional soccer players have plenty of down time in their day-to-day lives, but rarely have a stretch of true off days during the season.

This week, though, will be a break for the Chicago Fire. As the Copa America kicks off Friday, the Fire will get a rare in-season week off.

Major League Soccer is taking a break for the tournament contested between national teams from North and South America. No Fire players are participating in the tournament.

Not only does the team not play again until June 15, but the team will not train again until Monday, June 6.

“We want our guys to recover well and start the second part of the season in the best possible performance,” coach Veljko Paunovic said after Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Portland. “They will have a fitness plan during this time.”

This is a change of pace from the team’s earlier bye weeks where Paunovic said those were a chance to work on the team’s fitness. This time around the Paunovic is using it as a chance to give the players a restart before getting back to work.

“I think it’s good for us to get a little bit of time off,” midfielder Matt Polster said. “We still have a fitness packet to do and we have to maintain our fitness over the week. I think the guys need to take a little break. When you can, you take it. I think that’s huge for us so when we come back we’re much hungrier to get the next three points.”

The Fire have a longer break than most of MLS. There are three league matches Wednesday and three more on Thursday before the whole league breaks. In addition, the three Canadian MLS teams are playing in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday.

That means the Fire are one of just five MLS teams to get a slightly earlier, longer break for the Copa America.

The Fire return to action in the U.S. Open Cup. They will play against the winner of the Indy Eleven-Louisville City match, which will be played on Wednesday. If Louisville wins the Fire will travel for the June 15 fourth round match. If Indy wins, the match will be at Toyota Park.

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.