Fire

Lack of conviction, slow starts underpin Fire's road woes

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Lack of conviction, slow starts underpin Fire's road woes

After atoning for a 0-3 start to the 2015 MLS regular season with three consecutive home wins, the Chicago Fire faltered on the road for the third time this season and slipped to its fourth loss on Sunday, leaving them hovering above the red line by a whisker in the Eastern Conference standings.

Their trendsetting winless record against Western Conference opponents, made worse with a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Sporting Kansas City, is gaining unwanted attention. The lack of incisiveness and ruthlessness in front of goal has been duly noted as of late, with all six of the Fire's goals supplied by all but the forward position in Kennedy Igboananike (two shots on target in 221 minutes), Quincy Amarikwa (five shots on target in 446 minutes) and Guly do Prado (one shot on target in 192 minutes) through the first seven games.

"We just didn’t quite execute in the final third," said head coach Frank Yallop during his weekly media conference call on Tuesday. "We’ve just got to figure out our play away from home being goal dangerous and being clinical because we had chances. We’re not quite there yet and we didn’t execute when we should have. That was the story of the game."

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As Yallop prepares to alleviate the issue ahead of Real Salt Lake's visit to Toyota Park on Saturday, matching the intensity of their counterparts, in addition to being bereft of conviction in the attacking third, has also been a bit of a soft underbelly for the Men in Red while scoring just one goal and conceding five in three away matches. 

"We weren’t sharp in the first half, I thought," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "The second half we started to get our wind and get into the game. I said, Kansas City always starts very strong at home and they get at you. Once the level dropped down to par level, I thought we played well. I thought we matched them."

On Tuesday, he expanded on the slow start against Sporting KC, a resemblance of the Fire's prior performances at the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes in March.    

[RELATED: Fire rue missed chances in loss to Sporting Kansas City]

“It’s a weird one because we talk about it, about coming out quickly, that they’re going to come out at us,” Yallop said. “We didn’t look confident (at Sporting KC) in the first 20-30 minutes. That could have cost us the game -- (Dom) Dwyer had a free header and should've scored. They could have been two-nil up at halftime."

With Salt Lake's visit in the offing, Yallop is already taking initiative to resolve the team's road setbacks, citing a refined strategy on the coaching staff's behalf as the precursor of better things to come ahead of the Fire's trip to New York City FC on May 15.

“I’m going to talk next week about maybe just changing something in training or maybe the days off to get us into the mode of a good start in an away game,” he said. “What I like about my technical staff is we’re forever trying to fix it through video, through sleeping patterns, and different things like this. We’ve got a pretty good team that can win games (on the road), so (starting slowly) was a frustration on Sunday.”

Stay with Comcast SportsNet for complete coverage ahead of the Fire's home contest against Real Salt Lake, slated for a 2 p.m. kickoff on Saturday 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.