Catching up with former Fire striker Chad Barrett

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Catching up with former Fire striker Chad Barrett

Saturday, April 16, 2011Posted: 5:00 PM

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com

When the MLS schedules are released, few, save for the supporters of Sporting Kansas City, circle the matches against the Chicago Fire. But every team knows when the Los Angeles Galaxy come to town.

David Beckham and Landon Donovan are Major League Soccers stars, filling stadiums all across North America. Like the Pele and Beckenbauer-led New York Cosmos of the NASL, the Galaxy are the driving force of the league nearly as large as the league itself.

After adding strikers Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett in the offseason, the Galaxy are again favorites to win the MLS Cup in November.

In the meantime, the Galaxy is still trying to gel as a team. Injuries and suspensions will affect head coach Bruce Arenas lineup on Sunday. The Galaxy traveled to Chicago without Landon Donovan (knee injury), David Beckham (suspension yellow cards) and Juninho (suspension red card).

Barrett, who scored 17 goals in 82 appearances with the Fire between 2005 and 2008, did travel with the team, and talked about his new squad, the Fire and MLS referees at the Galaxys pre-game media day in the ritzy Sax Hotel. Thanks Beckham.

Q: Back in Chicago, new team, hows it been thus far for you?A: Its been good, you know. Its been kind of a learning experience, learning how to gel with all of my new teammates, on and off the field. Theres a lot of good players here; theres a much higher caliber. Competing for jobs is much tougher. Ive accepted that. Its not easy to get a starting spot, keep a starting spot on this team, so it makes you work everyday that much harder.
Q:Its a little different being in a place like this a hotel lounge that appears to have been designed by a 17th century French king and having a pre-game media day, as opposed to Toronto and even Chicago.A: This doesnt hold a candle to what it would be like if Landon and Beckham were here...You have stars on this team, the faces of the league people want to hear about what they have to say, how they prepare for games is how they have been doing it in the highest leagues in the world.

Its important for them to see day in and day out, what we do, so they dont think its all glitz and glamour out there on the field. We stay in, like you said, these nice places to stay in, but rest is just as important as game times are. Coming here and getting proper rest, proper relaxation that you need, especially when you are playing three games in 10 games, all on the road. Its very tough.
Q: You guys come into the season, and its almost an expectation to win MLS Cup. That has to be a bit different in its own regard. A: You mentioned MLS Cup, and at the beginning of the season, we do set long term goals, but this team is really good that we feel we can go pretty much anywhere and take three points away. Thats been a difference than other teams I have been on in the past, where youre hoping to win your games at home, tie the games on the road, and maybe get a couple wins in there. But this team has a firm belief that when we go to these places, we should be able to take three points out.

I feel the past two places we went, DC and Toronto, I think we got robbed in DC and then in Toronto, we had the chances to put that game away too, but we didnt take advantage. Weve been playing very well defensively...we have good depth on this team. Especially on this road trip, with the injuries and red card issues that weve come up with, people have done a very good job to step up.

The final goal is MLS Cup. Theres an expectations, but theyre expecting us to win every game every weekend, and thats an expectation that Im OK with.

Q:Back-to-back games in cities that youve played in. Thats just a weird scheduling quirk, isnt it?A: Im kind of getting everything: I saw my family in DC, went home to Toronto and back to my first home, here in Chicago. Seeing a lot of people, lot of friends... counting all my cards this one trip.

I got the start in Toronto, and everything you try to do is try keep your spot on this team. I dont know what Bruce has in plan for us on Sunday, but Im sure whatever he puts out is going to get it done.
Q:No one really knew what to expect from this Fire team going into the year. Theyre at the bottom of the table now, but theyve played fairly well. Whats the game plan?A: Theyre not as bad of a team as is represented in the standings. Theyre a team that can attack fast. It seems like they were down and out of the game last night, down 3-0. They had a nice little comeback, got it to 3-2. I thought they could have pushed for another goal, but Portland did well to get another one.

Theyve got a lot of new players...good leaders, in Logan Pause. Theyre a fairly young team. I think its a good thing to play this team early in the year, to capitalize on the disarray in the mindset that they have.

I dont think any team has the advantage when it comes to the rest aspect of it. I think were both going to be playing with some tired legs out there. Thats where the thinking aspect is going to take over in the game...I think theres some holes in their team that they can exploit, and I think that we can get three points.Q:LA Galaxy is one of the deepest teams in the league. Is Sunday an opportunity to go out there and show that this isnt two guys and a couple of new players?A: We have a lot of faces. We have Juan Pablo, Beckham, Donovan, three of the most heralded players in MLS. Its very easy to get cast in the shadows in that, in the public. But on the field, you toss all fame and fortune is aside and we all play our hearts out for each other.

The veterans do a great job, no matter how big or small they might be...We keep a very tight locker room. Thats what needs to happen to be successful. Thats how it was when I first came to Chicago. We had Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, C.J. Brown we had a bunch of older guys who led by example and by voice.

Q:The big topic of conversation, and its been coming out of your camp, is cards and refereeing. Has it reached a level of overall frustration with your squad? It seems like youve been the most vocal about it. A: The league came to us before the season and they said that they would have to bring in some new refs because of more games. Its kind of like youre playing against two oppositions. It feels like were playing against the other team and were playing against the refs. Its not just us its every game Ive watched. It seems like there has been a red card in at least every game. I havent looked at the stats, but I would imagine that the red cards and the cards in general are up almost two-fold.

It kind of feels like theyre taking too much control over the game. They dont need to protect us that much. Were not fragile, were not pieces of glass we can take a hit.

It sucks though. Its just not part of the game you want to see, a referee becoming the star of the game, taking away points from you, that you earned, like what happened in DC. Whether they decide to change the way they think, or whatever its not up to us.

The Fire will host Barrett and the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday at 3 p.m. at Toyota Park.

White Sox win consecutive series for first time since late April

White Sox win consecutive series for first time since late April

The White Sox have been adamant the baseball they’ve played the past six weeks isn’t far removed from their torrid start to the season.

Now they have something to show for it.

Courtesy of a 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field, the White Sox have back-to-back series victories for the first time since they swept the Texas Rangers and Toronto two months ago. With five wins in their last seven tries, the White Sox improved to 38-38 as they head into a much-needed day off.

“It’s huge,” said outfielder J.B. Shuck, whose second homer in as many days provided an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. “You feel kind of a weight lifted off the shoulders in the clubhouse. We’ve been grinding. Even some of our losses, we’ve been in games. We’ve come back, we’ve given ourselves a chance and one thing here or there kind of led us to losing and now it’s starting to work for us a little bit.”

A week ago the White Sox were coming off yet another demoralizing road sweep against an AL Central opponent. They had played well in two of three contests against the Cleveland Indians but came up empty. That sweep followed one at the Detroit Tigers earlier in the month and another previous one during a hellish May weekend in Kansas City.

But starting with an extra-innings win at the Boston Red Sox on Monday night, the White Sox have started to put things together more consistently than they had of late.

They capitalized on good pitching in the first two victories over the Red Sox and then the offense did the heavy lifting in an 8-6 win on Wednesday. Though they didn’t close out a sweep of Boston, the White Sox carried it over to their home series against Toronto.

“We need some of those,” said closer David Robertson, who retired the side on 10 pitches in the ninth to convert his 20th save. “When you get your butt kicked and you get swept in places, you gotta come home and win some games. We’re playing a lot better baseball. We’re pitching better. Hopefully it continues and we stay strong.”

Sunday’s victory was full of quality play in all aspects for the White Sox.

-- Chris Sale was dominant for seven of eight innings and earned his 13th victory in 15 decisions.

-- Robertson’s inning aside, Sale gave the bullpen another critical day of rest.

“It’s kind of relaxing,” reliever Zach Duke said.

-- Beginning with Adam Eaton’s major-league leading 10th outfield assist in the first inning, the defense turned in several big plays behind Sale, including double plays in the fourth and seventh.

-- The offense provided several timely hits, whether Melky Cabrera’s two-out RBI single in the third or Shuck’s solo homer to increase the lead back to three runs in the eighth.

Now the White Sox have a day to rest before they continue their homestand on Tuesday with the first of three against the Minnesota Twins.

“I like the way we're playing,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think offensively, we're swinging it a little bit, doing some things, and playing defense along with it. That's a good sign for us to be able to continue to do that. Pitchers are getting back to being healthy and getting after it. I like the way this is headed. I like the fire that these guys have shown and bouncing back in some tough situations.”

Fire defender Brandon Vincent picked up some extra bling

Fire defender Brandon Vincent picked up some extra bling

Brandon Vincent had a good ‘what I did on my summer vacation’ story when the Chicago Fire went on break in early June.

When the Fire took a week off of training in the first week of the Copa America Centenario break many of the players left town. Vincent went back to Stanford, where he helped the Cardinal men’s soccer team win the NCAA Championship for the first time ever.

Vincent was able to see familiar faces while visiting his old stomping grounds and received his championship ring.

Most of the team had received their rings earlier in the year, but Vincent left campus to participate in the MLS combine less than a month after the Cardinal won the national title in December.

“It’s good to see my friends and my old coaching staff and the guys that helped me get to where I am now,” Vincent said. “It’s kind of a quick turnaround not being there for the second part of the quarter to get the ring to celebrate the championship and everything, but it’s nice to be back and just be with the guys for a little bit and then reset and come back here.”

The turnaround for draft picks in MLS, especially after deep tournament runs, doesn’t leave much time to linger on campus. Just over a month after winning the national title, Vincent was drafted No. 4 overall and headed to the Fire.

The busy season schedule kept things moving for Vincent. His visit to Stanford provided a slightly different perspective for the rookie left back.

“It’s different when you’re in the moment and you’re in school and it’s like I want to be done and move onto the next step,” Vincent said. “Then once you’re at the next step you’re looking back. I appreciate it more when you’re back there and all the people that were a part of it.”

With the Fire, Vincent has made nine appearances, eight starts, in MLS play and played the full 120 minutes in the first U.S. Open Cup match against Indy Eleven right after the break.

After starting the first three matches of the season, Vincent didn’t play at all in April. He returned to the field on May 11, nearly two months after his previous appearance on March 19. Since then Vincent has missed just one match, which came in Colorado three days after playing 120 minutes in the Open Cup match.

Vincent admitted to an adjustment period early in the season and hopes he can keep improving.

“I’ve struggled here and there and I’m just trying to learn and keep my head on straight and keep going forward,” Vincent said. “Everyone is so much quicker and sharp on this level. It’s just a matter of getting the same wavelength with everybody else on the field and reading plays to kind of make plays offensively and defensively. Then just going forward, trying to be more accurate and precise with what I’m doing.”

Remedial Chaos Theory: The NBA cap spike and how it impacts the Bulls

Remedial Chaos Theory: The NBA cap spike and how it impacts the Bulls

There is an iconic line from "The Matrix" where Morpheus tells Neo, “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” That line also applies to this year’s NBA free agency. You’ll read dozens of articles over the next few days talking about the salary cap spike and how it’s going to impact the league, but none of us really know what to expect on July 1. We’re going to have to see it for ourselves, and that includes the front office of every team in the league.

Gar Forman told CSN Chicago on Thursday night after the draft, “I don’t think anybody knows what’s going to happen come July 1 because there’s never been anything like this where there’s been such a spike in the cap.” The salary cap is going to increase from $70 million in 2015-16 to $94 million in 2016-17. That’s a nearly 35 percent increase in one season -- by far the biggest in league history.

The Cauldron's NBA salary cap expert Nate Duncan says to expect chaos for not just one, but two years: “I expect it to be completely insane, not only since there is a ton of space this year but because with the cap spiking to a projected $107 million next year (pending a new CBA) these ridiculous contracts could actually end up looking good by comparison with what is handed out a year from now.” (1)

Nate makes a fantastic point because we’re in store for two years of a completely unknown market. The best teams will plan for 2016 and 2017 simultaneously. How many free agents this year will opt for a two-year deal with a player option on the second year? We could witness a situation in which many top tier free agents this year go through the same process again next July.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the cap spike is the sheer number of teams that will have room to sign a player to a max salary. (2) RealGM.com projects that 13 teams will likely have space to sign a Tier 1 free agent to a max deal. In addition to the 13 teams that will likely have that amount of cap space, BasketballInsiders.com projects that up to 25 teams could hit that mark.

 In 2010, the year of one of the greatest free agents classes in history, just eight teams had space to sign a max player. Outside of Kevin Durant, this year’s class is not particularly strong, and there will be 20+ teams looking to spend a lot of money. There is no way a player is going to meet with 10 teams, let alone 20. There are going to be many teams who can’t even get a sitdown with a player they are interested in.

We were already going to see eye-popping contracts this summer just based on the cap spike. A player who would have made $12 million per season before is projected to make $16 million per season just based on the percentage increase. But the real wild card is the sheer number of teams with cap space. Duncan says the most intriguing part of free agency for him will be the secondary market: “I want to see what some of the role players get. How low do you have to get in the market before the money finally starts running out?” And to borrow from Donald Rumsfeld, this is the biggest known unknown. What happens when teams start to panic? You may see players eighth in a rotation get $10 million+ per season.

Think of it this way: Let’s say you and 20 of your friends have brand new iPhones and gift cards to get the premium versions of apps. But in this scenario, each app is only available to download once. Furthermore, that gift card expires after one week. Waze, Spotify, and Snapchat are going to go early and kudos to those of you who downloaded them. Then Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest get downloaded. At some point, one of you is going to get desperate, panic, and download the Meow Meow Beenz app you really didn’t want. (3)

Mentally prepare yourself for seemingly outrageous contracts. Harrison Barnes, despite struggling mightily in the playoffs, is going to get a max deal. Kent Bazemore is probably going to get $15 million per season, and E’Twaun Moore is probably going to get $7 million a season. I may even be low on those numbers. This is part of the "unintended consequences" that Adam Silver referenced in his annual All-Star address last February.

Let’s narrow the focus on how this impacts the Bulls. I’m projecting them to have approximately $24 million in cap space to spend.

That number could increase if they are aggressive in trying to trade Mike Dunleavy Jr, Tony Snell, or Taj Gibson (4).

The Bulls will be looking to add an impact player to the roster this July, but they face several challenges.

The Bulls will go after top-tier players, but a more realistic expectation is to sign two rotation players. Forman said this about his team’s strategy July 1: “My guess would be as opposed to one guy we’ll probably look to fill some holes and look for some guys that fit the plan moving forward.”

The key part of that quote is the “fit the plan moving forward” line. Forman has to plan for 2016 and 2017. Overpay for a marginal free agent now and that could greatly limit flexibility next summer. The 2017 free agent class may be better than 2010 and the 2017 draft will be one of the most talented in nearly a decade.

I think the smart play for the Bulls is to either overpay on a one-year deal for a starter, or sign two rotation players to a relatively team-friendly deal. They will want to maintain cap flexibility next summer.

The challenge for the Bulls (and every team) is finding the right player without getting into a bidding war that causes a team to overpay. I actually think the second and third wave of free agents signings will cause more people to be shocked than the “who got a max deal?” signings.

Teams have to be flexible and be willing to adjust course instantly. As long as the Bulls don’t remain rigid and treat free agency like Rickon running from Ramsey, they should be able to add quality depth to the roster. (5)

Footnotes

1. There is an opt-out in the current Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows either side—the owners or players—end the current CBA next July.

2. NBA free agents max salaries are based on their years of service in the league. Tier 1 free agents are 0-6 years. Tier 2 is 7-9 years. Tier 3 is 10+. First year max for Tier 1 in 2016-17 is $22.2m, Tier 2 is $26.6m, and Tier 3 is $31.1m. Please visit Larry Coon’s amazing CBA FAQ for more info

3. Downloading Meow Meow Beenz is only done on the Darkest Timeline.

4. The Bulls could also save a small amount of cap space but waiving two players with non-guaranteed contracts: Spencer Dinwiddie or Christiano Felicio. They could also save the salary of second-round pick Paul Zipser by entering an agreement that he play in Europe next season.

5. Don’t even get me started on why he was running in a straight line. I could write 1,000 words on that scene alone.