Fire Postseason Report

931579.png

Fire Postseason Report

Major League Soccer is only in the early stages of its postseason tournament, but all the votes for the individual awards and Best XI selections had to be in last week.
The leagues Coach-of-the-Year wont be announced until Nov. 27, but competition for it took an unexpected twist on Friday when a prime candidate Jesse Marsch abruptly resigned as head man of the expansion Montreal Impact.
My vote for Coach-of-the-Year didnt go to Marsch. Not meaning to seem like a homer, but my choice was the Fires Frank Klopas. Klopas took a team that had 10 wins in 44 games in 1 seasons under his predecessor, Carlos de los Cobos. Under Klopas the Fire salvaged a .500 season (9-9-16) in 2011 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this season. The disappointing last six games notwithstanding, Klopas impact on his club was unmatched. Its improvement was largely due to coaching, as Klopas rosters reflected a massive rebuilding job.
While Klopas was my clear-cut choice for Coach-of-the-Year, my choice for second was Marsch. Ironically, Klopas and Marsch were teammates on the first Fire team that swept the MLS and U.S. Open Cups in its inaugural 1998 season.
Marsch kept playing after that, and was a mainstay in the Fire midfield before finishing his career with four seasons as captain of Chivas USA. He clearly had the personality for coaching in his playing days, and his first head job with Montreal proved that.
The Impact had a slow start, not unusual for expansion clubs, but it challenged for a playoff berth before finishing 12-16-6 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Montreal owner Joey Saputo said the Impacts record had nothing to do with Marschs departure, said to be a mutual agreement by all involved in the decision-making.
"We did not share the same philosophy," said Marsch. "It wasnt easy, with the relationships weve built, but for me it was the right decision."
Montreal is way ahead of the rest of MLS in planning for 2013. The Impact leaves on Monday (Nov. 5) for 12-day tour of Italy, during which itll play two Serie A members, Bologna on Nov. 8 and Florentina on Nov. 15. The Impact is also the first MLS team to announce preseason plans for 2013. It will open camp on Jan. 19 and play in the Disney Pro tournament in Orlando, Fla., while training there from Feb. 9-23.
Two of Marschs assistants with Chicago ties will be on board at least for the Italian tour. Denis Hamlett, who took the Fire to the playoffs twice as its head coach in 2008 and 2009, and Mike Sorber, who completed his playing career in Chicago, were on Marschs staff.
As for Marsch, dont be surprised if he winds up coaching Chivas USA next season. That Los Angeles-based club struggled to a 7-18-9 record under the coaching of Robin Fraser this season. Only Toronto FC (which had 23 standings points) had few than Chivas USAs 30 this season.
WELCOME, COACH SERMANNI
The Fires season-ending 2-1 playoff loss to the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday coincided with the arrival of Tom Sermanni, who had just been named head coach of the U.S. womens team. He concluded the media rounds at Toyota Park in a pre-game meeting with reporters.
Sermanni, coach of the Australian national team for 11 years, has a tough act to follow. The U.S. women won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in London and have been No. 1 in the FIFA Womens World Rankings since 2008.
"Most coaches come into a situation where a team is doing poorly and you want to try and turn things around," said Sermanni. "This is a different challenge, but the same principles apply. You just start from a much better base. You dont come into this job to make radical changes. You try to make the team even better, if thats possible. The most important thing is to try to keep winning.
Sermanni, in Chicago for just two days, will return to the U.S. in December to watch the last three matches of his new teams Fans Tribute Tour. Jill Ellis, U.S. womens development director for the Chicago-based U.S. Soccer Federation, will coach those matches before Sermanni takes over on Jan. 1. Hes hopeful a U.S. womens pro league will be in place for 2013.
"Some of our players might want the experience of going to Europe, and that could be beneficial in some cases," Sermanni said. "But if a new league gets up and running here my preference would be for them to play here.
CALLING FIRE HOPEFULS
The first step for the Fire in preparation for next season is the two-day open tryout, to be held for the fifth time at Bridgeview Soccer & Sports Dome on Dec. 14-15.
Fire coaches will select one player from the tryout to participate in the first phase of the 2013 preseason. Only once has the survivor of the open tryout actually made the first team. In 2011 Mount Prospect defender Pari Pantazopoulos did it. He beat out over 200 candidates from 19 countries in the open tryout, then survived all three phases of the preseason to make the team. He didnt crack the roster for 2012, however.
Registration for the open tryout is 150, and the deadline is Dec. 11.

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

Vinnie Hinostroza, rookies pace Blackhawks past Avalanche

DENVER – Vinnie Hinostroza scored twice in the third period as the Blackhawks overcame a lousy second period to beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 on Tuesday night.

Tanner Kero had two goals and an assist and Nick Schmaltz had a goal and an assist. Marian Hossa recorded his 600th and 601st career assists.

The Blackhawks trailed 4-3 heading into the third period. Hinostroza became a one-man show, scoring on a breakaway to tie it 4-4 and then scoring again 3:01 later for a 5-4 Blackhawks lead.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Looking for a scoring spark, the Blackhawks altered their lines (except for the second one) entering tonight’s game. In the first period it looked like it worked for the fourth line. Schmaltz got his second goal of the season for a 1-0 lead. Matt Duchene tied it 1-1 before Brent Seabrook put the Blackhawks back up 2-1.

But midway through the second period things got very ugly for the Blackhawks. Blake Comeau scored off a Blackhawks turnover at the blue line to tie it 2-2 and just 63 seconds later Matt Nieto, following a Blackhawks failed clearing attempt, put the Avs up 3-2. Kero’s goal just 19 seconds after Nieto’s reversed momentum and tied the game 3-3. But about four minutes later Matt Duchene scored his second of the night for a 4-3 Avalanche lead.

Kero added his second goal, an empty netter, with 10.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

Bulls can't answer Wesley Matthews' game-winner in loss to Mavericks

It was believed the Bulls needed no extra motivation going against a Dallas Mavericks team that's a half-game away from being worst in the Western Conference.

The Mavericks gave them a 25-point shellacking in Texas last month, giving the Bulls enough film to make a horror show. Usually these instances even out over 82 games.

But this is no ordinary season for the Bulls, and the Mavericks again emerged victorious when Wesley Matthews got free for a triple on one end and locked up his college teammate Jimmy Butler on the other end, leading to a 99-98 Mavericks win.

It looked like another Butler special when Butler nailed a step-up, contested jumper over Matthews to give the Bulls a 98-96 lead, completing his 24-point night.

But Matthews was undeterred, breaking free on the wing for a triple when Dwyane Wade had to help Nikola Mirotic on a Deron Williams drive with 11.7 seconds left.

And on the final possession, the Bulls' spacing looked gummed up when Butler couldn’t shake free of Matthews, forcing him to pitch it to Wade, who put up a heavily contested 21-foot jumper from the baseline

It caromed off the rim, and the Mavericks danced happily off the floor for their first three-game winning streak of the year, this win completing a season sweep of the Bulls.

[SHOP BULLS: Get your Bulls gear right here]

Butler scored 24 with 12 assists and nine rebounds but was 5-for-12 from the field as Matthews was in his chest all night. Wade had a strong fourth quarter on his 35th birthday but missed 13 of his 21 shots to score 17.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 and Seth Curry's 18 as the Mavericks made 11 triples and had 27 assists, frustrating the Bulls.

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 20 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn’t have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The Mavericks played tougher and smarter with their personnel, and the Bulls got to see what happens when Wade or Butler can't save the day.