Fire

Fire's late rally falls short in narrow loss to Red Bulls

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Fire's late rally falls short in narrow loss to Red Bulls

The Fire came close to staging a late rally in the second half, but were unable to complete the comeback in a narrow, 2-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park on Sunday.

Two first-half strikes from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, despite Gilberto's second-half tally, were enough for the Red Bulls (18-10-6, 60 points) to clinch an away victory and raise the MLS Supporters' Shield trophy in front of an announced crowd of 19,850.

Interim head coach Brian Bliss made his statement clear regarding the Men in Red’s poor mentality during last week’s 4-0 defeat to D.C. United, and implemented a handful of personnel changes, with goalkeeper Alec Kann deputizing for Jon Busch. Matt Polster replaced Lovel Palmer at right back, Chris Ritter - who came off in the 21st minute with an apparent head injury - stood in for Daneil Cyrus at center back and Patrick Doody returned to left back in place of Joevin Jones, who occupied a wide midfield role in place of David Accam. Matt Watson also relieved Michael Stephens in central midfield. 

[RELATED: Fire stress mental approach ahead of season finale]

In his first MLS start, Kann's nerves were put to the test early on with a flurry of sloppy clearances in the opening minutes. The 25-year-old was kept in check by the Red Bulls, and was forced into his first save on Wright-Phillips' effort in the seventh minute.

Ninety seconds later, a familiar scenario came back to haunt the hosts. Kljestan drove in a corner-kick delivery to Damien Perrinelle, whose flick-on header was sent to the back post to an unmarked Wright-Phillips, who tapped in for an early Red Bulls lead. 

Ten minutes before the halftime break, the visitors doubled their advantage. Fire veteran Patrick Nyarko was adjudged to have unlawfully pushed down Mike Grella in a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge in the box and conceded a penalty kick in the process, which Kljestan coolly slotted past Kann for his third tally from the spot in three meetings between the two teams this season.

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After maintaining 59 percent of possession in the opening 45, the Fire emerged from the halftime interval with their backs still against the wall. Gilberto showed more conviction in front of goal, sending a bending effort toward Robles in the 56th minute before collecting a long ball from Doody at the edge of the area in the 68th, chesting down and volleying a shot toward Robles, who did well to parry aside.

Second-half substitute Accam ringed a side-footed shot off the post in the 73rd minute before Gilberto's persistence was rewarded five minutes later. Doody streaked down the left flank and sent a looping ball toward the back post. Nyarko headed down for the Brazilian to acrobatically finish past Robles from close range to cut the Red Bulls' lead in half.

Despite throwing numbers forward in the latter stages, Bliss' group was unable to pull level. At the sound of the final whistle, some players stood in agony, others strolled around the field applauding the fan base. By the end of the night, the Fire (8-20-6, 30 points) were left disheartened, but perhaps lifted by the notion of what may lie ahead under new leadership.

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

Alec Kann; Matt Polster, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris Ritter (Daneil Cyrus, 21'), Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko, Matt Watson (Kennedy Igboananike, 84'), Razvan Cocis, Joevin Jones (David Accam, 58'); Harry Shipp; Gilberto    

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.