Fire draw, will host Houston in elimination round Wednesday

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Fire draw, will host Houston in elimination round Wednesday

The good news is the Fire is awaiting its first playoff match since 2009. The bad news is the Fire goes into Wednesday nights meeting with the Houston Dynamo with absolutely no momentum.

Its still possible for the Fire to wins its second Major League Soccer title, the first coming in the clubs inaugural 1998 season, but the road couldnt be much more difficult. If the Fire gets by the Dynamo, the next task will be a two-game home-and-home series against Sporting Kansas City, clearly the best team in the Eastern Conference during the regular season.

The first game of that conference semifinal series would be at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday at Toyota Park if the Fire gets by Houston and thats a big if.

Sadly, it didnt have to be this way. Had the Fire won its last regular season game, its playoff outlook would have been much brighter. The Fire would have been second in the East and have a week to prepare for its first opponent. But, the Fire didnt win, the last match ending in a 1-1 draw against D.C. United before a sellout crowd (20,017) in Bridgeview.

That result left United (17-10-7, 58 points) solo second behind Sporting Kansas City (18-7-9, 63). The Fire (17-11-6, 57) finished tied in points with the third-place New York Red Bulls (16-9-9, 57) but the Red Bulls owned the tiebreaker with 57 goals scored to 46 for the Fire.

Thus, D.C. United and New York will join SKC in getting a weeks rest before their first playoff match. Both will have some momentum going, too. United finished the season 5-0-2 and after its best player, Dwayne DeRosario, was lost with a knee injury. The Red Bulls needed to win their last game against Philadelphia to avoid the knockout match and got it with a resounding 3-0 CHECK victory a few hours before the Fire and United took the field in Bridgeview.

"Our conference was so tight, said Fire coach Frank Klopas. "This (match vs. United) wasnt the last game for us. Its behind us. Were still in a very good spot. We wanted a week to prepare. Thatd be better than a quick turn-around like this, but at least we dont have to travel. Our goal from the beginning was to be in the playoffs, and we are."

True, but having to play (and win) an extra game wont help the Fires chances of going deep into the postseason. Unlike most of this uplifting season the club finished it on a downer, going 1-3-1 in the last five matches. Two of the defeats were against Philadelphia and New England, conference rivals who had long since been eliminated from postseason contention.

And, as for settling for a draw with D.C. United, the Fire had only itself to blame. There were plenty of chances to win that one.

The Fire scored first, an electrifying 25-yard blast by Patrick Nyarko in the 16th minute. That was a promising start, since the Fire had never lost a match under Klopas when it scored first. That streak is still alive at 22 matches (17-0-5). The Fire also has a history of playing well in home finales, going 9-4-1 in its first 14. The Fire still hasnt lost a regular season home finale since 2005, but those stats are basically meaningless now.

A Fire breakdown in the 50th minute allowed Lionard Pajoy to head in the tying goal for United, but the Fire had plenty of opportunities to get it back. The club put nine shots on goal, many in the waning moments.

"We had four chances. Youre lucky if you get that many in a months worth of games," lamented forward Chris Rolfe, who was honored before the match as the Fires Most Valuable Player and Golden Boot winner for scoring the most goals.

Dominic Oduro put one shot high and another off the right post after entering the match in the 68th minute. Alvaro Fernandez, Sherjill MacDonald and reserves Alex and Guillermo Franco also had opportunities, too, but couldnt convert.

"Im proud of the effort of the group, said Klopas. "Theyve been consistent and put everything on the field. We took some risks, and you feel good about the chances youve created."

But theres a big difference between good chances and finishing them off. Klopas called a rare day-after-game Sunday training session to begin the Fires preparation for Houston. Though the Dynamo (14-9-11, 53 points) was a full four standings points behind the Fire, Houston was till comfortably in the playoffs after building a five-point advantage on sixth place Columbus.

The Dynamo may have the disadvantage of traveling to Wednesdays match, but should be well-rested. Coach Dominic Kinnear knew his club couldnt improve its position in its late Saturday night match against Colorado, so he gave his usual reserves plenty of playing time in a 2-0 loss. The key players who will take the field on Wednesday had only limited playing time against the Rapids.

Former North Lawndale star Jonathan Mills killed in shooting

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Former North Lawndale star Jonathan Mills killed in shooting

Former local high school basketball star Jonathan Mills was shot to death on Monday in North Lawndale, a source confirmed to CSN.

A Class 2A state champion and city champion who played high school ball at North Lawndale and college basketball at Southern Miss, Mills was shot multiple times in the 4100 block of West Roosevelt at 1:27 p.m., police told the Chicago Sun-Times.

The 26-year-old Mills was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by two daughters. 

Mills became a West Side legend in Chicago basketball circles as one of the hardest-working rebounders the city has seen in the last decade. Taking North Lawndale to two state semifinals and winning a Class 2A state championship in 2008, the 6-foot-5 lefty wasn't particularly skilled as an undersized forward, but he was relentless in his pursuit of the ball and a rugged defender.

In his first varsity season at North Lawndale as a junior, Mills averaged 16.8 points and 13.7 rebounds per game as he led the Phoenix in rebounding 31 of 33 games during a state title run. In a Class 2A sectional title game against Englewood, Mills had a legendary performance as he had 22 points and 23 rebounds in a two-point win. 

During his senior season, Mills averaged 14 points and 13 rebounds per game in helping the Phoenix win the school's first city championship. Beating Hyde Park in overtime for the city title, Mills had 13 points and 23 rebounds in a 54-51 win as he secured the game-clinching rebound off of teammate Terry Johnson's missed free throw. 

After playing two years of junior college ball at Eastern Utah, Mills played his final two seasons of college basketball at Southern Miss in Conference USA. Mills earned third-team All-Conference USA honors as a junior while also making the All-Defensive Team as he averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. During his senior year, Mills was once again on the Conference USA All-Defensive Team as he put up 9.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

On Monday, Twitter was filled with memories of Mills from coaches, players and reporters that watched him play. 

CSN and CSNChicago.com to provide daily coverage of Bears Training Camp 2016

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CSN and CSNChicago.com to provide daily coverage of Bears Training Camp 2016

Coverage begins Wednesday, July 27 with Ryan Pace & John Fox’ LIVE press conferences beginning at 2:00 PM CT

Team coverage to include daily reports from Bourbonnais for ‘SportsNet Central’ and ‘SportsTalk Live;’

CSNChicago.com’s Bears “Insider” John ‘Moon’ Mullin to provide daily online & on-air updates and up-to-the-minute video reports

Chicago, IL (July 25, 2016) -- Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most extensive and comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Bears, will provide viewers with expanded on-air and digital coverage of Chicago Bears Training Camp 2016 presented by Abt Electronics, Appliances and More featuring daily reports on SportsNet Central presented by Comcast Business at 6:30 PM CT, GMC SportsNet Central at 10:00 & 10:30 PM and SportsNet Central presented by CLR at midnight, along with reports on the network’s signature weeknight sports talk show, SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado (Monday-Friday at 5:30 PM) with host David Kaplan.

** Coverage kicks off on Wednesday, July 27 as Comcast SportsNet will carry Bears General Manager Ryan Pace and Bears Head Coach John Fox’ LIVE press conferences beginning at 2:00 PM CT.

Starting July 27, and every day throughout the duration of training camp, SportsNet Central’s Kip Lewis, Chris Boden, along with CSNChicago.com’s Bears “Insider” John ‘Moon’ Mullin will provide viewers with the very latest training camp breaking news, players/coaches interviews, video highlights, injury updates and much more from Bourbonnais, IL for both SportsNet Central and SportsTalk Live

In addition, CSNChicago.com also has Bears training camp covered 24/7 from a daily digital perspective with up-to-the-minute breaking news updates, roster moves, free agent signings, interviews and much more at CSNChicago.com’s Bears team page (csnchicago.com/bears).  CSNChicago.com will also produce daily digital “Bears Talk” reports offering detailed, position-by-position player analysis, as well as numerous features, interviews and commentary.

Fans can also look forward to up-to-the-minute breaking news Twitter updates from Mullin (@CSNMoonMullin), Lewis (@KipLewisCSN) and Boden (@CSNBoden), along with the network’s main Twitter handle (@CSNChicago) and ‘Bears Talk’ handle (@CSNBears) for feeds of Bears training camp news articles and features.

Plus, CSNChicago.com digital Bears producer Scott Krinch (via @CSNBears) will provide live reporting coverage via Bears Talk on CSNChicago.com – including real-time news stories, player interviews, behind-the-scenes photos, fan interviews, videos and live Tweets.  CSNChicago.com Bears Training Camp content will also be featured on NBCSports.com, ProFootballTalk.com, Yahoo! Sports, Rotoworld and NBCChicago.com.

CSN to televise, live stream IHSAA State Championship Tournaments

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CSN to televise, live stream IHSAA State Championship Tournaments

Beginning this scholastic year, CSN Chicago and the Iowa High School Sports Network will team up to bring viewers in-depth coverage of the Iowa High School Athletic Association's (IHSAA) State Championship Tournaments.

The partnership gives audiences access to over 85 hours of live football, wrestling and basketball coverage. 

All IHSAA events will be broadcasted in high definition and available via live stream at csnchicago.com. 

The 2016-2017 season will kickoff on Aug. 25 with the 4th annual Channel Seed Ag Bowl between the Northeast Rebels and Central Dewitt Sabers. 

Check out the full broadcast schedule here.