Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto


Fire wrap 2016 season with loss at Toronto

It wasn’t a full youth movement on the season's last day, but there was one new face in the Chicago Fire’s lineup and that could signal something to come in the offseason.

Goalkeeper Patrick McLain made the start in goal for the Fire in a 3-2 loss at Toronto FC to close out the season.

With the Fire out of contention weeks ago, arguably more notable than the result is the absence of Sean Johnson. Johnson did not travel to Toronto as a healthy scratch while McLain got the start and Matt Lampson was the backup. Considering coach Veljko Paunovic's repeated assurance that he would play what he thought was the strongest lineup and not rotate players just to give younger players more playing time, this decision stands out.

This will fuel further speculation that Johnson could leave in the offseason. Johnson, 27, has been with the Fire since being drafted in 2010. He is the longest tenured Fire player.

McLain finished with three saves, including a nice reaction save following a corner kick in the first half.

Johan Kappelhof also did not play due to a right hip injury. Rodrigo Ramos started at right back in his absence.

As for the actual game, the Fire (7-17-10, 31 points) took the lead via Michael de Leeuw’s seventh goal of the season in the 18th minute. Arturo Alvarez picked up his ninth assist by sliding a pass to de Leeuw, who finished from a tight angle.

Toronto (14-9-11, 53 points) tied things up just before halftime when Sebastian Giovinco was tripped in the box by Joao Meira for a penalty kick. Giovinco buried the penalty and the match was tied at halftime.

Giovinco showed why he is the reigning MLS MVP on the second goal. He managed to control a ball while being double teamed in the box and cut by his man to get to the end line and crossed to Justin Morrow, who finished with a powerful header in the 54th minute.

Jonathan Osorio made it 3-1 when he dribbled around McLain and scored in the 62nd minute.

John Goossens, who came off the bench in the first half for an injured Matt Polster, scored in the 83rd minute to make for a closer finish to the game. Goossens half-volleyed a loose ball in the box with a hammered left-footed strike and his third goal of the season. Polster left with a knee injury.

The loss meant the Fire became the first team in MLS history to finish last place in back-to-back seasons.

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg, Dwyane Wade soak themselves in Cubs fever

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg, Dwyane Wade soak themselves in Cubs fever

The party that started Saturday night on the north side of town had vibes that stretched all the way west of downtown, as the Chicago Bulls players and coaches soaked themselves in Cubs fever.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has been a lifelong Cubs fan due to growing up in Iowa and of course, Dwyane Wade came back home at the right time to witness the Cubs winning the pennant for the first time since 1945.

“It’s been fun, it’s been fun to watch. I’ve talked about how together that team is, how much of confidence, how much of a swagger they play with,” Hoiberg said. “It’s just a fun team that looks like it has unbelievable chemistry.”

Playfully, Hoiberg admitted he went streaking in Wrigleyville after the Cubs finished off the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field—although if he actually had been streaking, Hoiberg probably would’ve blended in with the deliriousness that took place well into Saturday night.

Seriously, though, Hoiberg admires the unity and joy the Cubs have played with all season—embracing the expectations without letting themselves get engulfed in them.

“It’s a team that I think you can learn from with what they’re doing and the backing that they have from the city,” Hoiberg said. “Cubs fans, from the time they’re born like myself, they’re just, it’s been awesome to watch and see the celebration after the game.”

Wade agrees, and having been part of three championship teams, knows chemistry when he sees it.

“That team has figured out a way, even during this series when it looked like their back was against the wall they came out swinging. They stuck together,” Wade said. “You have to support each other. No matter who’s on the basketball court for us, who’s on the bench, it’s all about supporting each other and really caring about the other guy. When you start caring about the other person, you don’t want to let that other person down on the court. You become a better team because of that.”

With the World Series starting Tuesday in Cleveland, Wade and good friend LeBron James will likely make a friendly wager, with the two exchanging playful tweets after the Cubs’ clincher.

“It’s been a long, long, long time, and just obviously I felt the buzz when I got back to the city, and everyone thinking that this was the Cubs’ year,” Wade said. “And they’ve been obviously playing amazing, so it’s great. It’s great to be in Chicago at this time with the Cubs being as successful as they are so far, and so it’s good to be here and it’s good to be a sports fan at this time in Chicago, so it’s good.”

Cleveland has gone from a national sports joke to one with an embarrassment of riches in the past six months, while the Cubs are trying to end the longest championship drought in the four major sports.

“Just pride in your city. Cleveland has obviously had droughts in sports and then he went back there to change that drought from the standpoint of basketball, and they accomplished that,” Wade said. “And now Cleveland is trying to do the same, and they got to a World Series, which has been a drought for them.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Luckily for the Bulls—or any Chicago sports fan for that matter—Thursday’s season opener doesn’t conflict with a game, but fans won’t be so lucky next Saturday night. The Bulls will play the Indiana Pacers while the Cubs will host Cleveland for Game 4. Wade doesn’t think he’ll have trouble getting into Wrigley Field, but after Scottie Pippen’s unfortunate rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame” Saturday night, Wade wants an opportunity for a reprieve.

“I know Scottie butchered the 7th-inning stretch. I think me and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo could do a good job together if they ask us to do it,” Wade said. “It’s just cool to be a part of it.”

Hoiberg summed it up succinctly, likely echoing the beliefs of many long-suffering Cubs fans.

“Four more to go,” Hoiberg said. “I like their chances just because of how confident they’re playing.”