Fire

Notes from the rewatch: Luis Solignac on the wing

Notes from the rewatch: Luis Solignac on the wing

Playing with a man advantage for over an hour tends to put an asterisk on a result.

The Chicago Fire's 3-0 win against New England on Saturday came with the Revolution being shorthanded from the 27th minute on, which makes it tough to evaluate either team. However, there were still a few things that stood out, regardless of the number of players on the field.

Schweinsteiger's up and down first half

Bastian Schweinsteiger's debut was a clean performance filled with key passes and a goal. His second game was quieter, but still mostly mistake free. Against New England, the German made a number of mistakes early on, but they all went unpunished.

He had four turnovers inside the first 10 minutes. Schweinsteiger did settle down with a few nice passes and then eventually scored the goal right before halftime.

His first half ranged from this (facing his own goal):

To this:

Solignac as a winger

With David Accam nursing a hip injury, Luis Solignac got the start on the wing with him and Michael de Leeuw flanking striker Nemanja Nikolic. Neither Solignac nor de Leeuw are traditional wingers, but Solignac proved to be a pretty good fit for the position on Saturday.

He assisted Schweinsteiger's goal in the first half and had the key pass that led to Nikolic's first goal early in the second half. The Argentine was named to the MLS Team of the Week for his showing.

Solignac has speed and quickness, both key when playing as a winger. Solignac has typically played as more of a traditional striker in the past so it's no surprise that his service from the right wasn't flawless, but he did set up two goals. Solignac hasn't been an efficient finisher with the Fire, but he has speed, technical ability and is a decent passer. The wing may not be such a bad fit for him and gives coach Veljko Paunovic another wide option.

Playing against 10 men

The Fire are gradually becoming a team that can maintain possession. The additions of Dax McCarty and Juninho helped in that regard, but Schweinsteiger's addition made a big difference in the Fire's approach to possession and how to play with the ball.

When New England went down to 10 men the Fire displayed a dominance of possession, but didn't create a lot of chances at first. Schweinsteiger's goal was the first shot on target of the match and that came in the 45th minute.

The Fire may not have been particularly dangerous, but they were patient and that was rewarded. There was a 31-pass sequence that nearly led to a goal in the 20th minute, but Nikolic was correctly called offside.

The Revs sat a bit deeper down a man and put less pressure on the Fire's defenders when they had the ball. The Fire's two centerbacks, Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira, both had pass completion percentages above 95 percent. The Fire as a whole passed at a nearly 90 percent completion rate.

Yes, the Fire were up a man for over an hour, but the personnel has changed and the Fire's desire and ability to be patient in possession has changed drastically from a year ago.

Chicago Fire permanently sign midfielder Aleksandar Katai

katai.jpg
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

kap.jpg
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.