Fire

U.S. Soccer faces must-win at Soldier Field

U.S. Soccer faces must-win at Soldier Field

It’s must-win time for U.S. Soccer.

The men’s national team takes on Costa Rica at Soldier Field on Tuesday in the Copa America Centenario and, after dropping a 2-0 game to Colombia in the opener, it will be a must-win game.

No one is denying that.

“I think we all do understand what’s at stake,” U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann said at his press conference on Monday. “It’s a must-win situation when you lose your first one. There’s only two games left so you got to get your first three points and then you see how things will play out in the third game. Tomorrow night we are full of energy, full of optimism to get those three points.”

Costa Rica is coming off a scoreless draw with Paraguay so they sit just one point ahead of the U.S. With Colombia looming in Costa Rica’s finale, Tuesday’s game is crucial for both sides.

“I think it is going to be a defining game in our group,” Costa Rica manager Oscar Ramirez said through a translator.

There is pressure on both teams, but it’s not hard to make the argument about how there could be more for the Americans. A loss would eliminate the U.S., but even a tie would require the U.S. to get some help from other results to get out of Group A.

The last time Costa Rica beat the U.S. on American soil in something other than a friendly was 1989. That’s a different era for U.S. Soccer, back before the U.S. started making every World Cup.

“In a tournament like this if you don’t get points in the first game, right away in the second game it’s important to turn around and get a result,” U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley said. “We certainly understand that.”

Much has been made of how Jurgen Klinsmann spoke about the team’s performance against Colombia. Despite the 2-0 loss, Klinsmann again repeated that he thought it was “a good performance.”

Defender Geoff Cameron stuck to that tune as well on Monday.

“We watched video, we see things, we know as players we can do things better, but we can take positives out of the game,” Cameron said. “Colombia is No. 3 in the world, they’re a very good team, they have a lot of good players, but they didn’t play us off the pitch. Two goals, a penalty and a set piece. That’s not saying they dominated us or crushed us.”

Regardless of how the performance against Colombia is viewed, the U.S. has to play better or else it could be the first team out of the tournament.

“We need to play better,” Bradley said. “There’s no question about that. To win big games you need a lot of guys to have good days.”

Bradley is the son of former Chicago Fire coach Bob Bradley and as a result spent some of his childhood in the Chicago area. After playing in front of a crowd that appeared to have more Colombia fans than U.S. fans, Bradley was asked if Chicago would have a more pro-U.S. crowd.

“We certainly hope,” Bradley said. “But the reality is that we never know exactly what to expect in terms of the makeup of the crowd.”

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.