Fire

Tony Tchani adjusting quickly to Fire after being surprised by trade

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Chicago Fire

Tony Tchani adjusting quickly to Fire after being surprised by trade

When Tony Tchani started the Fire’s preseason finale against Tulsa on Saturday, it was hard to tell that he had been with the team for only one training session before that game.

The Fire traded for Tchani, sending $150,000 of Targeted Allocation Money to Vancouver, on Wednesday and his first practice with the team was Friday.

“I feel like he was with us all this time and also I have the feeling that he feels the same,” coach Veljko Paunovic said after Saturday’s game. “Immediately when we spoke (Friday), from the first session we had that walkthrough and preparation for the game, he understood everything perfectly.”

Tchani played with Dax McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger, arguably the two most important players on the Fire’s roster, in central midfield. Tchani and McCarty played more defensive roles while Schweinsteiger had the freedom to be more involved in the attack.

Tchani has been in MLS since 2010 and has made 169 career MLS regular season starts with 10 more playoff starts so him fitting in quickly may not be a big surprise.

“I think so far, so good,” Tchani said. “I knew a few guys on the team, which was pretty much easier just to get to know those guys.”

Tchani was teammates with defender Christian Dean in Vancouver before Dean was traded to the Fire last summer. He also played with assistant coach Eric Gehrig for three years in Columbus.

While easing into his new team hasn’t been a difficult challenge for Tchani, the trade did catch him off guard. Vancouver traded defender Tim Parker to the New York Red Bulls for midfielder Felipe Martins and $500,000 of allocation money. Felipe’s addition made Tchani more expendable for Vancouver.

“I was surprised because I had a pretty good preseason so I didn’t expect anything,” Tchani said. “And I played every game. If I would have expected it I was hoping to be at least benched in one of those games to give me a heads up. I think they did a pretty good job hiding it from me.”

Adding another experienced, MLS proven central midfielder to the team provides Paunovic with more flexibility. Tchani can take on a similar role to the one Juninho had last season.

The Brazilian formed a starting midfield trio with McCarty and Schweinsteiger nine times in 2017 similar to the way Tchani joined McCarty and Schweinsteiger on Saturday, but Juninho was also a solid fill-in when either of the Fire stalwarts were unavailable. Juninho made 17 starts last year, but also missed some time due to injury so Tchani could be in line for more minutes this season.

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.