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.

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

Todd Frazier's late single lifts White Sox over Mariners

The White Sox offense showed a bunch of late life on Thursday night.

Todd Frazier had two hits with runners in scoring position, including the game-winner, as the White Sox topped the Seattle Mariners 7-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Frazier’s one-out single in the ninth inning off Nick Vincent scored Adam Eaton as the White Sox won for the fourth time in five games. Frazier’s game-winning hit was his first since June 2015 and the fifth of his career. It and a game-tying, two-out, two-run single in the seventh helped Frazier shake off a game in which he struck out three times in his first three at-bats.

“You learn something,” Frazier said. “You take the last at-bat and throw it away and just keep on going. Unfortunately, it took me three times to do that. To come up clutch today felt pretty good.”

Frazier leads the club in home runs and RBIs.

Similar to his teammates, however, Frazier has lefty plenty of chances for more damage on the table. He entered Thursday hitting .159 with runners in scoring position for a team that ranks 18th with runners in scoring position (.255).

While Frazier struck out with runners on the corners in the first inning, he succeeded in his next two tries. He picked up Jose Abreu in the seventh after the slugger struck out against Steve Cishek. Frazier sat on a slider and ripped a 2-0 pitch into left field to drive in Eaton and Tim Anderson, whose one-out RBI double made it a 6-4 game.

Then in the ninth, Frazier came through again. Eaton’s bloop single to center got things going before Anderson bunted him over. Vincent walked Abreu to get to Frazier, who singled to left again.

Frazier was previously 17-for-17 with five doubles, four homers and 42 RBIs with runners in scoring position.

“These are the best ones,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You can't rely just on the homer. There's more to his game than that. You have to be able to knock in runs when you're not hitting them over the fence. He can use the other side of the field. I think he can level it out somewhat and get some hits. Just put it in play more because you don't know know what's going to happen.”

[MORE: Rick Hahn denies rift in White Sox front office, holds off on plans for 2017]

David Robertson found that out in the top of the ninth inning when his outing was delayed for several minutes by a trio of fans who ran onto the field. Robertson worked around the delay and a one-out walk to keep the score tied at 6.

Down 2-0, the White Sox scored three times in the first inning to briefly take the lead.

Abreu and Avisail Garcia both singled in runs and Dioner Navarro had a bases-loaded sacrifice fly.

White Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo pitched well after a slow start and then ran into bad luck in the sixth inning. What looked to be a surefire double play ball kicked off Ranaudo’s glove and combined with an Anderson throwing error led to a three-run inning that put Seattle ahead 6-3.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Ranaudo allowed six earned runs in 5.1 innings.

The White Sox were 6-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“That’s just part of it,” Robertson said. “I guess that happens some times.

“Everybody played hard. They didn’t give up at all tonight. We pitched well enough to win and had timely hitting. A few things went our way, a couple errors that really ended up giving us a few runs. A few things went our way and it was great to pick up a win.”

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Jay Cutler, Dowell Loggains face deepest test yet in Bears' third preseason game

Third preseason games come with added significance simply because it is the one practice game in which the starters play the closest to a full game prior to the start of the regular season. But for the Bears, Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs is potentially far more important for another reason.

The Kansas City game looms as something of a new tipping point in the one relationship that must function above all others for immediate success of the franchise:

The working relationship/bond between offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and quarterback Jay Cutler.

The two-plus quarters that Cutler is expected to play will be the longest yet trial by fire for his trust in Loggains. The latter has been a coordinator previously in his career, but with less time and success in the position that most of Cutler’s previous list of coordinators.

And few of those relationships survived, let alone flourished once Cutler lost faith or belief in their messages, whether under an avalanche of sacks, poor play selection or design, or whatever.

Cutler put up the best season of his eight-year career in 2015 with Loggains as his position coach. Adam Gase was the coordinator, Gase came in with credibility from having worked with Peyton Manning in Denver. The credibility traced to not necessarily what Gase might have taught Manning, but rather because of what Gase undoubtedly LEARNED from Manning.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Saturday’s test will be far short of the ones the regular season holds, when Loggains’ offense has been scouted and schemed for. But after a stretch of “quizzes” for Cutler-Loggains, this is a “test.”

Buy-in with Loggains?

Loggains has traction with Cutler – for now. Cutler was consistent in his compliments of Loggains last year, but it was Gase ultimately in his ear on game days. Indeed, the entire offense believed in Gase: “When I’m in the huddle…and we get a play call,” offensive lineman Kyle Long said at the time, “there’s never a time where we look at each other and think, ‘Oh [darn].’”

The NFL reality is that Loggains, who has stressed an even stronger commitment to running the football (Long and associates love that), has to earn, or re-earn that gut-level trust.

Most of all, from Cutler.

The lurching start to the preseason – the Bears’ 22-0 home loss to Denver, in which the offense with Cutler netted 13 yards in 10 plays, two of them ending in sacks of Cutler – was test No. 1. The Cutler-Loggains relationship appeared to emerge intact.

“We talked,” Cutler said. “We talked a lot about that game. I think the major point for us was, ‘Let’s not panic. Let’s not hit the fire alarm and put guys in a panic.’

“Because it was the first preseason game and we watched the film and a lot of the stuff that went wrong was because of mistakes… . So it was a matter of just kind of cleaning that stuff up and just going back to work. Which I thought we did a really good job of offensively [at New England]. Hopefully we can do that this week, too.”

Tough warm-ups

NFL schedule-makers did Loggains and the Bears no favors. Their first three preseason opponents – Denver, New England, Kansas City – were all top-10 run defenses. Meaning: The Bears are working to establish Loggains’ run-based offense right into the teeth of three of the NFL’s best at stopping that.

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The Bears want to run. But just consider: What if they can’t run against a monster Chiefs front that includes Jaye Howard and Dontari Poe and which held the Bears to 3.3 yards per carry, tied for their second-lowest of 2015, in their meeting last season?

Which then tasks Loggains with getting the offense to the right solutions, and those traditionally have not been – and should not be – solely found in Cutler’s right arm. The Bears streamlined and simplified Cutler’s decision-making last year, by design, and it was the right strategy, minimizing a Cutler weakness.

But now Loggains is front-and-center in those decisions. And Cutler has never appeared to suffer from an excess of patience through his career, even the new, more mature Cutler.

And not only WHAT Loggains tells Cutler, but also HOW he tells him, will matter. Gase was generally quiet; that worked. Loggains is very expressive, which Cutler said he now appreciates.

“He sets the tone every day,” Cutler said. “There’s never a gray area. He sets the tone, sets the standard, and if you don’t live up to that, meet those expectations, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to let you know.

“As a player, that’s all you can ask for: A coach telling you how to do it, and when you don’t do it, you expect him to push you and help you achieve those goals.”

Preseason game No. 3 will be the biggest test yet for the synchronicity that is there now but needs to stand up to inevitable failures.

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois lands Huntley DE Olalere Oladipo

Illinois added another important in-state piece as Huntley three-star ranked defensive end Olalere Oladipo (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) announced his college decision Thursday night to the Fighting Illini.

"Illinois has a great staff, is close to home," according to Oladipo. "Illinois felt like a nice fit for me."

Oladipo is also the second verbal commitment Illinois added Thursday as the Fighting Illini added a commitment from Miami (Fla.) Central four-star ranked wide receiver Carmoni Green (6-foot-1, 178 pounds).

Oladipo is now the sixth in-state verbal commitment for the Fighting Illini Class of 2017. Oladipo joins St. Rita OLB Marc Mondesir, Auburn OT Verderian Lowe, Marian Catholic QB Cameron Thomas, Chicago Brother Rice WR Ricky Smalling and Bolingbrook ATH Kendall Smith.

Illinois now has 11 known verbal commitments total in the Class of 2017.