Everyone can take a deep breath: the U.S. is going to the World Cup.
In what was nearly literally a must-win, the Americans dominated Panama to the tune of a 4-0 win Friday night in Orlando. The win didn't lock up a World Cup berth for the U.S., but it put the U.S. back in one of the three automatic qualifying positions from CONCACAF with one game remaining, which will be at last place Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday.
Borussia Dortmund teenage midfielder Christian Pulisic stole the show with an early goal and set up the second goal with an assist to Jozy Altidore. With the game in hand by halftime, Pulisic was taken out 10 minutes into the second half. The man who replaced him is familiar to Chicago Fire fans.
Dax McCarty entered in the 56th minute for Pulisic and finished the match. McCarty is an Orlando native, which meant the game was a homecoming for him.
He nearly had an assist when he set up Paul Arriola in a one-on-one situation with goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, but Arriola was denied in the breakaway in the 80th minute.
McCarty has been called in to every World Cup qualifying roster since Bruce Arena took over as coach, but hadn't got off the bench. This marked his first appearance in a World Cup qualifier.
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 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.