Fire

New homegrown signing Joey Calistri has long history with Fire

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New homegrown signing Joey Calistri has long history with Fire

To say Joey Calistri has some history and ties to the Chicago Fire is putting it mildly.

The Northwestern product and Deerfield native joined Drew Conner as brand new homegrown players to sign professional contracts on Thursday, but it merely continues years of being in the club’s system for Calistri.

Calistri started playing soccer around four or five years old and after playing for a local club, he moved to Fire Juniors. He has stayed with the club ever since.

[RELATED - Fire sign homegrown players Joey Calistri, Drew Conner]

“You can check off all the boxes,” Calistri said. “I went through Fire Juniors and Fire Academy. In college summers, I went through Fire PDL. I actually even interned with the Chicago Fire front office last summer. I’ve been around the club for a while now.”

Calistri graduated from Northwestern two quarters early with a degree in communications with a concentration in marketing. Last summer, he was a communications intern with the club, practicing in the morning and working in the afternoon. He graduated with a number of academic awards, twice being named Academic All-Big Ten and earning a 4.0 grade point average in his final quarter.

As for his play, Calistri finished his four-year career at Northwestern second in the program’s all-time goal-scoring list with 30. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound forward also notched 10 assists in 68 appearances and was an All-Big Ten honoree all four years, earning first-team honors as a freshman and sophomore and second-team honors as a junior and senior. In his time with the Wildcats, Northwestern made the tournament three times, including a first round loss to new Fire teammate Matt Polster’s Southern Illinois-Edwardsville in 2014.

"Joey's whole career has been a testament to hard work," Northwestern head coach Tim Lenehan said in a press release from the school. "He leaves Northwestern as one of the best players we have ever had here … That same work ethic that has helped Joey have such success at Northwestern will no doubt serve him well at the professional level.”

When describing his play, Calistri emphasized that work ethic.

“I know that the main reason why I’ve gotten where I am is because of my work ethic,” Calistri said. “That’s something that’s very apparent in my game, whether that’s tracking back defensively or chasing down defenders. I think that’s something I always pride myself on. In addition to that, attacking wise, I like being dynamic and trying to make runs off the ball and trying to get behind defenses and making them uncomfortable.”

As for how Calistri will fit into the Fire’s plans in 2016 remains unclear. The club currently only has 15 players under contract and Gilberto and Kennedy Igboananike are the only true forwards on the roster.

Calistri had kept in touch with technical director Brian Bliss, who coached the PDL team Calistri played on in the summer. Coach Veljko Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez reached out a few days ago by phone to give Calistri the good news.

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“They seem very dedicated to turning this club around,” Calistri said. “Obviously you can tell that they have a lot of energy and they definitely seem like they have some good ideas going forward. I know they’re going to put a lot of work into making this a successful club.”

For now, Calistri is preparing for the upcoming season. He already had a workout at The PrivateBank Fire Pitch after the signing was announced on Thursday.

“I’m just excited to get started,” Calistri said. “It’s still a bit surreal right now. It’s something that I’ve worked for ever since I was a kid. I can’t remember when it was first a dream, but it’s always kind of been where I want to be. For it to actually happen is a dream come true. That’s kind of an understatement.”

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.