Fire

Jurgen Klinsmann removed as U.S. Soccer coach, Bruce Arena rumored to be replacement

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USA TODAY

Jurgen Klinsmann removed as U.S. Soccer coach, Bruce Arena rumored to be replacement

The U.S. Men's National Team had a forgettable week last week to open the final round of World Cup qualifying and it cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job.

Klinsmann was removed as coach and technical director, U.S. Soccer announced on Monday.

The U.S. opened the final round of CONCACAF's qualifying with a 2-1 home loss to Mexico. That was the first home loss in a qualifier for the U.S. since 2001. They followed up with a 4-0 road loss at Costa on Tuesday.

Mexico is probably the most talented team in CONCACAF and the U.S. has never won in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose (0-9-1), but Klinsmann was criticized for his lineup selection to start the Mexico game and the nature of the 4-0 loss at Costa Rica was more troubling than the loss itself.

The good news is that the 0-2 hole is not a major one to climb out of. The nature of CONCACAF qualifying means there is, or at least was, plenty of room for error. The top three teams of the six remaining qualify for the World Cup and the fourth-place finisher heads to a playoff. That means the U.S. doesn't need to finish ahead of Mexico or Costa Rica, which have become the other two powers in the region.

Klinsmann took over for Bob Bradley, now coaching Swansea in the English Premier League, in 2011 and coached the U.S. out of the group phase of the 2014 World Cup.

U.S. Soccer enters somewhat uncharted territory now. This is the first time the men's coach has been fired during qualifying since 1989.

The timing does give U.S. Soccer a chance to hire a replacement and have them settle in a bit. The next qualifier is on March 24 and the team typically has a camp in January/February during the Major League Soccer offseason.

Rumors have already popped up that LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena is in line to take over. Arena coached the national team to its best World Cup of the modern era by making the quarterfinals in 2002 in Japan and South Korea. He also led the team through the 2006 World Cup, which is the only time this century that the U.S. failed to advance out of group play.

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.