Fire

Media-shy Djordje Mihailovic gets a moment in the spotlight

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USA TODAY

Media-shy Djordje Mihailovic gets a moment in the spotlight

Djordje Mihailovic is a bit media shy so when a dozen reporters circled around him after the MLS Homegrown Game at Toyota Park, he was a bit flustered at first.

"Oh my word," he muttered aloud at the crowd of reporters facing him, microphones, cameras and phones pointed in his direction.

Mihailovic, the Chicago Fire's 18-year-old rookie homegrown midfielder, scored a goal in the first minute. The MLS homegrowns, comprised of players 20 years old or younger and signed out of MLS academies, played Chivas Guadalajara's under-20 team to a 2-2 draw on Tuesday in one of the support events for Wednesday's All-Star Game against Real Madrid.

“It’s every kid’s dream to score in front of the home crowd," Mihailovic said. "To play in the All-Star Game, represent the home club and home city, to score is another thing to add to that so I’m definitely honored and it was a great experience for me.”

Mihailovic roamed in different positions in a slightly unorthodox setup selected by coaches Brian McBride and Mike Magee, both former Fire players from Chicagoland, for a team that had just one training session together before playing the match. To start the match, Mihailovic played as the team's striker and delivered the early goal.

“It was important," McBride said. "An early goal, especially a new group of guys, it just gives you more energy. The game was pretty spread out and giving that early goal sort of I think caused them a little bit of, not concern, but question marks, and it gave us really the positive feedback of pressing early and winning those balls and going forward quickly.

"It was really, really good for us to get that early goal and I’m happy for Djordje.”

Another bonus for the Lemont native is that he had plenty of family there to watch him.

“There was a lot of family," Mihailovic said with a laugh. "My sister flew back from college to watch so I’m glad I scored in front of her.”

Mihailovic captained the team and found out right before the game. He said he was in shock at leading the team out of the tunnel to start the match.

After playing in just one game, totaling one minute, in the Fire's first 10 matches, Mihailovic has become a more regular sub under coach Veljko Paunovic. Mihailovic hasn't made a start yet, but has subbed into four of the last five Fire matches. As a result of the more regular playing time, Mihailovic said his confidence has gone up.

“It started about a month ago when I started continuously getting in games consecutively," he said. "Right now, scoring a goal, my confidence is definitely rising even more.”

Colorado Rapids defender Kortne Ford scored on a header on the last play of the game to tie the match. It sparked a big celebration for the MLS players.

“We’re here to have fun, but we’re also here to win because no homegrown team has won and a tie is a tie, but try to get the win because it’s a competitive game,” Mihailovic said.

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.