Fire

Yallop lauds Fire win over RBNY: 'That's the kind of football I like'

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Yallop lauds Fire win over RBNY: 'That's the kind of football I like'

During a season that's materialized as more streaky than steady, little can be said about the Fire's ability to stifle some of MLS' more powered and potent teams within the confines of Toyota Park.

The Men in Red have defied the likes of Seattle Sounders FC and FC Dallas en route to shutout victories in July and August, a gratifying feeling felt once again Wednesday night in Bridgeview as Frank Yallop's side overcame an early deficit against the high-flying New York Red Bulls to record a 3-2 win in front of an announced crowd of 11,196.

Two goals from Kennedy Igboananike and a strike by Patrick Nyarko - with two assists from Designated Player Gilberto - helped the Fire (7-13-5, 26 points) extend their home unbeaten streak against Jesse Marsch's outfit to 14 games since 2005. The result effectively ended the Red Bulls' (11-7-6, 39 points) run of six unbeaten in MLS regular season play heading into Wednesday's contest. 

"Great result, that's the big thing for me," Fire head coach Frank Yallop said. "Good performance, too. I was very happy with all the guys tonight. We dug deep tonight, and got a great result against a good team.

"MLS is built on parity and it showed tonight. We beat Dallas, who were on a five-game winning streak. ... We beat Seattle when they were pretty hot, too. This league's even, and it's tiny little things that make the difference in games. Tonight, we got the rub of the green, or the bounce of the ball, if you like. ... That's the sort of football I like. I want to go out and attack teams, get at teams and I thought we did that."

[RELATED: Fire to persevere in final stretch: 'Our leaders have not quit']

Yallop made two changes from the side that fell, 1-0, to the Colorado Rapids Saturday night with Razvan Cocis and Gilberto making their return to the starting lineup, replacing Matt Watson and Harry Shipp, respectively.

After engaging in some back and forth during the early stages, the visitors struck first, with Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz hauling down Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga in the box, leaving referee Allen Chapman with no choice but to award a spot kick, which was coolly slotted home by Sacha Kljestan in the 10th minute.

From there, Yallop's group responded with might, forcing Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles into four, big first-half saves. Nyarko had an effort from close range forcefully palmed aside before Cocis had a header parried away in the 20th minute.

Two minutes later, the Men in Red found their equalizer. Matt Polster stepped up from his right back position to expertly dispossess New York in the midfield, allowing a composed Gilberto to find Igboananike darting into space, who dispatched past Robles.

The Fire kicked on, seeing another header by Gilberto denied before Nyarko delivered the hosts' second goal. With Gilberto at the heart of the move once more, the Brazilian pinged a driven cross to Michael Stephens, who chested down for Nyarko at the top of the box. The Ghanain spun well and fired his effort past a helpless Robles to give the Fire a deserved lead heading into the halftime interval.   

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In the second stanza, the Red Bulls fired back, pulling a goal back through a cheeky restart on a corner kick, allowing Kljestan to carry out of the corner and set up defender Ronald Zubar to stab home for the equalizer in the 49th minute.

With just over 15 minutes remaining, the Men in Red's determination paid dividends. Second-half substitute Harry Shipp linked up with Stephens, whose lovely outside-of-the-boot pass found a streaking Accam down the left side in the 73rd minute. The Ghanaian slid a ball across the face of goal to Igboananike, who buried past a diving Robles to seal all three points, the Fire's first since the 2-0 victory over Dallas on Aug. 2.

"I'm forever optimistic," Yallop added when asked about the team's playoff potential. "We've got a big, big hill to climb to make the playoffs, but we've got to keep going, keep moving on. We can't worry if we're playing away or at home, but we've got to maintain our focus, and make sure that we try to play the right way.

"Tonight was a good example of a good-spirited win. ... [It's] good momentum for our tough run coming up."

Next up for the Fire is a trip to face Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday - the first of a three-match road trip - which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT on CSN+.   

Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Matt Polster, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones (Lovel Palmer, 76'); Patrick Nyarko (Harry Shipp, 72'), Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens, David Accam; Gilberto (Jason Johnson, 62'), Kennedy Igboananike. 

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.