Fire lose Gargan in Phase 2 of draft

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Fire lose Gargan in Phase 2 of draft

The Fire was one of nine Major League Soccer clubs opting to make no selections in Fridays Stage 2 of the circuits re-entry draft. The Fire did, however, lose a good man when the San Jose Earthquakes claimed veteran defender Dan Gargan.
Gargan one of the Fires most popular players -- was the first of three picks by the Earthquakes, who won the Supporters Shield for posting the best regular season record in MLS in 2012.
A seven-season MLS veteran, Gargan was a last-minute entry into the re-entry draft a week ago. All 19 clubs passed on him in Stage 1, during which the only pick was by the Fire. The club took Maicon Santos, a forward who played for D.C. United last season.
As expected, there was more action in Stage 2. In Stage 1, a club is obligated to offer its selected player a 5 percent pay increase. In Stage 2 the club and player can negotiate a new contract. Each team has seven days to make an offer and, even if an agreement isnt reached, the club that did the drafting has the right of first refusal if another team makes that player an offer.
The Fire had three players on the re-entry list for the first stage but lost only Gargan to another team. Jay Nolly, the third-string goalkeeper, wasnt chosen and is now a free agent. Midfielder Corben Bone pulled out of Stage 2 shortly before the drafting started in anticipation of reaching a contract agreement with the Fire.
Nolly was targeted as the experienced backup for Sean Johnson, but Italian Paolo Tornaghi got the start in the first three matches when Johnson was at U.S. Olympic qualifying. Johnson started all 31 matches after returning, and Nolly rarely even made the 18-man game-day roster.
Bone, a first-round pick in 2010 SuperDraft, has seen little action with the first team but he did score goals in a 3-2 loss to the minor league Michigan Bucks in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and a 2-2 draw with Mexicos Santos Laguna in an international friendly last season. Bone, 23, played in just two MLS matches in 2012.
Gargan was another matter. The Fire got him from Toronto FC midway through the 2011 campaign and he was an immediate starter at right back. He also started early in 2012 but was eventually beaten out by second-year man Jalil Anibaba. Still, Gargan had 19 starts in his 22 MLS appearances.
The Fire now goes into the 2013 season slightly weakened in the back thanks to Cory Gibbs retirement and Gargans departure. Anibaba could play in the middle if Arne Friedrich or rookie-of-the-year Austin Berry arent available. Steven Kinney and Tony Walls are the likely candidates on the current roster to take Gargans spot. Neither got into an MLS match last season, and Kinney has been injured for most of the last two campaigns.
Head coach Frank Klopas and his staff have already made scouting trips to Europe and Argentina in search of fresh talent, and more will come in the MLS SuperDraft, scheduled for Jan. 17 in Indianapolis.
Fridays draft began with 49 players up for selection. Gargan was one of only 14 chosen. First pick was defender Danny Califf, formerly of Chivas USA. Toronto FC claimed him. The two-time defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy traded to get Chivas USAs second spot in the draft and used it to take ex-Houston midfielder Colin Clark.
Further down the list two ex-Fire players were chosen. Chad Barrett, with Los Angeles last season, was the third player selected, by New England, and John Thorrington, formerly of Vancouver, was claimed by D.C. United.
San Jose was the most active team in the draft, picking Ty Harden in the second round and Bryan Jordan in the third.
While the draft was in progress the Fire was starting its fifth annual open tryout at the Bridgeview Sports & Soccer Dome. Over 150 players showed their skills on the first day, and selectors from the Fire technical staff picked 34 to return on Saturday for the final session. Theyll begin at 8 a.m., with the last group of players taking the field at 1 p.m. One player will be chosen to participate in the first week of preseason training.
Only defender Pari Pantazopoulos, in 2011, survived the open tryout and went on to earn a roster spot with the first team.

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Bears defensive backs using off-field bonds to improve on-field ones

Every Thursday night, Bears defensive backs try to all get together at Tracy Porter’s house for dinner. But it’s not about the food.

"None of us can cook," said cornerback Bryce Callahan, laughing.

At the risk of channeling some inner Marc Trestman, it’s about the get-together itself, which always involves popping on some game film and doing extra study beyond the time at Halas Hall. And it’s also building something off the field that they believe they can take onto it.

One of the keys to excellence in any working group is the individuals connecting in ways that make the whole greater than just the sum of the parts. That’s the point ultimately, taking some personal connections onto the field and making the entire defensive backfield collectively better.

Relationships among players have never been recorded as intercepting or even deflecting an NFL pass.

"For me it starts off the field, getting to know one another, how that person is," said cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, familiar with a similar internal chemistry from his time with the New England Patriots.

"You get that feeling for every individual, and you take that on the field. It creates a close bond, and we’ve got that bond. We try to look through each other’s eyes, communicate what you were thinking and he was thinking on this play or that, and that’s the biggest thing."

Offensive lines are generally thought of as the group most benefited by camaraderie and closeness. They typically have an O-line dinner most weeks, with checks for the meal not uncommonly reaching into four-figures.

"Those boys can EAT," LeBlanc marveled. "We stick to wings or ribs."

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But the secondary consists of four individuals rotating coverages the way a line moves with different protections or assignments. Double-teams in the defensive backfield require the same cohesion and familiarity as ones on the other side of the football.

The Bears have started the same base four defensive backs in all three games — Porter and Jacoby Glenn at the corners, Adrian Amos and Harold Jones-Quartey at the safeties — but the Bears are working in multiple rookies, and Callahan (hamstring) has been inactive along with Kyle Fuller, projected to be the starter at right corner but now on IR. Rookie safety Deon Bush was inactive the first two weeks, then played at Dallas. Rookie corner Deiondre’ Hall was pressed into action on defense for 18 plays at Houston and 28 against Philadelphia.

With the in-game mixes-and-matches necessitated by injuries, the familiarity among secondary members is looked at as nothing short of vital. Comments, right or wrong, from a friend can be taken better/more constructively than ones from a relative stranger.

"Just more of being ready to pick each other up, be ready," Amos said. "It just shows you how quick you can go from scout team to on the field, so everybody has to be talking together.

"The closer we are on and off the field, the better we are together."

LeBlanc agrees.

"We talk to each other like friends, in a unit, trying to dissect a play right after it happens, rewind and see how we can to it better.

"You can’t be out here trying to communicate and you don’t even really know the guy next to you."

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun couldn’t have asked for a better start to his second NHL season as he made the Blackhawks roster out of training camp.

It didn’t last long, however, as Baun was back with the Rockford IceHogs after two games with Chicago. As for that season in Rockford?

“That was a whole other story,” said Baun.

Indeed, Baun lost a good portion of his Rockford season when his right wrist was sliced twice by another player’s skate in mid-November. That, however, is all behind him. Now Baun hopes to replicate his 2015 camp performances and latch on with the big club longer.

Baun will play in his first preseason game this fall when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night. The 24-year-old skated is expected to start on a line with Tyler Motte and Tanner Kero, with whom he skated on Friday morning.

“I just want to simulate what I did last year, and it went well at the beginning,” Baun said. “I want to keep working hard, do what I did last year in the exhibition season and hopefully I can stick again.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Baun’s stint was short lived last fall; he was reassigned to Rockford on Oct. 16, and was looking to have a strong season there. Less than a month later, however, he suffered his right wrist injury that sidelined him for more than three months. Baun said he still wasn’t quite right even when he returned.

“I was trying to get back with the wrist and stuff, and I’m not sure it was 100 percent by the time I came back,” said Baun, who now wears Kevlar guards on his wrists. “So it was good to get a summer of training back in and get my legs under me.”

As for that wrist, Baun said it’s definitely “much better now.”

“The strength and dexterity is back,” he said. “It’s a small muscle, so to get the dexterity back was kind of tough.”

Baun is looking for another opportunity. Considering the opportunities for forwards this season, a good showing could lead to some more time in Chicago.

“I’m just trying to focus on my own game like last year. I think that worked for me, trying not to look too, too much into what everyone else is doing,” he said. “Consistency is the biggest thing here. They’re just looking for a guy who can come in, game in and game out, and improve.”

BRIEFLY

- Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford, who just wrapped up their World Cup of Hockey play on Thursday night, will probably get “three or four days off” before joining camp, assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “They’ve been going for a long time,” Kitchen said. “We’ll give them some time off.”

- Coach Joel Quenneville flew to Pittsburgh with the team.