Fire

Gilberto brace not enough as Toronto FC rallies to beat Fire

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Gilberto brace not enough as Toronto FC rallies to beat Fire

For glimpses of Saturday's encounter between Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire, Brian Bliss' group appeared to show the endeavor necessary to procure the team's first away win from home since July 2014. 

For large stretches of the first and second half, however, Greg Vanney's delegation showed why, amid a pressure-filled season, it is in contention to secure its first postseason berth in club history. A first-minute strike from Gilberto and another from the Brazilian on the other side of halftime was canceled out by tallies from Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore as the Fire (7-18-6, 27 points) fell, 3-2, to Toronto (13-13-4, 43 points) in front of 22,513 at BMO Field.      

The defeat - the Fire's 18th of 2015 - leaves them rooted to the foot of the Eastern Conference table and officially eliminates them from playoff contention, while Toronto remains in fifth place, two points back of fourth-placed D.C. United and five points clear of the playoff red line with four games to play. 

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Bliss showed three changes from the side that lost to the Montreal Impact midweek, with Mike Magee earning his first MLS start since July 15 in place of Kennedy Igboananike. Daneil Cyrus and Michael Stephens rounded out the alterations, deputizing for Ty Harden and Razvan Cocis, respectively.

The visitors got off to a dream start, with Stephens making an immediate impact and supplying Patrick Nyarko for the Fire's first attacking sequence. Nyarko took a few touches before threading an inch-perfect pass behind the Toronto defense for Gilberto, who, making his first appearance against his old team, powered home a left-footed effort past goalkeeper Chris Konopka for an early 1-0 lead.

In the ensuing 44 minutes, the hosts heaped on the pressure, outshooting the Men in Red by a 10-1 margin and maintaining 67 percent of possession. Sebastian Giovinco was the crux of several of Toronto's attacking moves before finally breaking through a compact Fire back line a minute shy of the half-hour mark.

After muscling Cyrus off the ball to earn a corner kick, the Italian delivered a moment of magic, curling a cross with the outside of his boot for Osorio to meet at the back post, which was headed in from close range to send both sides into the halftime break level at 1-1.     

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Seven minutes into the second stanza, Gilberto came back to haunt Toronto once more. After Bradley overcommitted in the hosts' defensive half, Nyarko was allowed to turn and connect with Magee, who, with one touch, sprung the Brazilian down the middle. Gilberto made no mistake, burying a well-placed, right-footed shot off the inside of the post and in to help restore the Fire's lead in the 52nd minute.

Seven minutes later, following a chested clearance off the line from Marco Delgado and another goal-bound effort from Gilberto that creeped by Konopka's left post, Toronto pulled level at the other end. Bradley waltzed into the area and evaded challenges from multiple Fire defenders en route to dispatching a deflected shot past Busch.

Ten minutes from time, Toronto sealed all three points with a near post flick-on from Altidore.  

With three matches in seven days in the books, the Fire will have a full week to gear up for their third and final meeting against the New England Revolution on Oct. 3.  

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-1-1) - Jon Busch; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Daneil Cyrus, Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko (Joevin Jones, 55'), Matt Polster (Razvan Cocis, 67'), Michael Stephens, David Accam; Mike Magee (Jason Johnson, 74'); 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.