Fire prepare to crash Portland's party

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Fire prepare to crash Portland's party

Thursday, April 14, 2011Posted: 11:20 a.m.
By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com

Not much is expected from the expansion Portland Timbers this season. After all, its a squad assembled from the rest of the leagues castoffs. But for the Chicago Fire, Thursdays matchup with the Timbers is one of the biggest games on its schedule.

These are the games that we play for, as a professional, Fire defender Cory Gibbs said in a telephone interview Wednesday. Ive tried to translate this to the team. Ive been there many times, fortunately, in my career. These are games that we strive to play.

How can that be? Portland has not won a game all season, and the Timbers currently sit at the bottom of the league table.

The Fire can thank the MLS schedule makers for adding a few layers of intrigue and drama to the first meeting between the clubs. Thursday, the Timbers will play their first home game in MLS, opening their renovated ground, Jeld-Wen Field, to what is sure to be a capacity crowd of rabid Timbers supporters.

The Fire, coming off a 2-1 defeat in front of 36,223 fans in Seattle on Saturday, are excited for another opportunity to play in a tough atmosphere.

We know that this game is going to be a lot harder than the Seattle game in terms of: expansion team, season opener, they havent won a game yet, and theyre going to have a lot to prove to their fans, Gibbs said. We should expect a lot of pressure in terms of intensity from them, and aggression from them.

Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos isnt keen on overhyping the game, but sees an opportunity for his squad to right the ship after a strong, but ultimately disappointing result in Seattle.

Each match is a different situation, de los Cobos said on a conference call Thursday. Portland is a new team in the league, but the attitude for sure will be very important for this kind of match, because we are coming with a bad result we need to add points. Portland is in front of its fans, but we keep playing like we are playing, good results are coming for us.

The story through the Fires opening matches has been strong play, but missed opportunities. Given their form, the Fire could easily be 3-0-0 instead of 1-1-1.

We just need to fine tune a couple of things we made mistakes on and easily the game could have gone the other way, Gibbs said. We left out of that game in Seattle, in all honesty, with a lot of confidence, knowing that even though we werent victorious in that game, were going to have a bright future if we play together and just believe in one another.

In each of the Fires first three games, striker Gaston Puerari has had breakaway opportunities, going one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Against FC Dallas and Seattle, Pueraris shots were saved. Gibbs brought up the breakaways as missed chances, but both he and de los Cobos pointed Seattles opening goal as something that cannot happen again.

Both said that goal, a header scored by Sounders forward OBrian White from 16 yards out, was a momentary lapse of strong play for the Fire. Even double-marked, White was still able to win the ball in the air and send it into the net. Portlands best chances on Thursday will likely come in a similar form.

The Timbers star, six-foot-three striker Kenny Cooper, poses an arial threat the Fire havent yet seen this season. The lessons of Whites goal Saturday have not been lost on de los Cobos, and the team has prepared in training to shut down the arial game.

We need to stay alert about this kind of situation, de los Cobos said. Against Seattle, we had one mistake in the box, one cross, and this guy OBrian White take advantage about this. Overall, with Cooper, he is better with the head. We need to stay alert, we need to stay close with him.

Gibbs play on the backline will be vital to making those tactics work. After injuring his right groin last week, Gibbs was a game-time decision for the Fire on Saturday. Gibbs played, despite not being 100 percent, and went the full 90 minutes in the loss.

The Fire is set to play three games in eight days, a stretch that ends Sunday at Toyota Park against the Los Angeles Galaxy, and with centerback Josip Mikilic out indefinitely, more injuries to the backline could be detrimental to positive results.

Ive always had the mentality where if I was somewhat ready, Im definitely going to go, Gibbs said. Thats what Ive been brought here to do. Im not trying to sit out. It just feels good to go 100 percent at training again without any qualms.

Gibbs expects to play both Thursday and Sunday. After all, these are the games he plays for.

Even though we have a quick turnaround, and we get back late Friday from Portland, you look forward to get another opportunity in terms of playing big games like we are going to do Sunday, Gibbs said. Its a great challenge for us in terms of testing our morale and testing where we are as a team.

Gibbs said that hell be sad to see the stretch of big-time games stop.

How great would it be if we turned around after Sunday and played Salt Lake? Gibbs said. For me, Salt Lake is on the top of their game, and we strive to play teams in games like that. You look to play these big games. As a team, weve all understood that. And Thursday, in Portland, in their season opener is something were biting for and we cant wait to step on that field Thursday and then turn around Sunday. Not looking past Portland, but knowing that Sunday is going to be another huge one.

The Fire and Timbers will kick off at 10 pm central Thursday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Terps pick Perry Hills as starting quarterback

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Terps pick Perry Hills as starting quarterback

The Terps have a starting quarterback for the beginning of the 2016 season, the same one who started the majority of the games during last season, when Maryland quarterbacks threw more interceptions than any team in college football.

First-year Terps head coach DJ Durkin announced Wednesday that Perry Hills won Maryland's preseason quarterback competition, beating out Caleb Rowe.

"After an open competition through the spring and the first two-plus weeks of training camp, we’re excited to move forward with Perry as our starting quarterback," Durkin in the announcement. "Perry has embraced this challenge from Day 1 and has put in the work and shown improvement every day. He’s grasped our offense and the way we want to do things and has shown tremendous leadership."

Hills started eight games last season but was part of a constant merry-go-round at the quarterback position when neither he nor Rowe proved capable of keeping the ball out of the hands of opposing defenders. The two combined for 28 of the team's 29 interceptions, which were far and away the most in the country.

Hills was better, statistically, last season, completing 50 percent of his passes for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions, adding 535 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Rowe, meanwhile, completed 46.1 percent of his passes for 894 yards and six touchdowns compared to 15 interceptions.

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 2 Glenbard West

CSN Preps Power Rankings: No. 2 Glenbard West

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 1, we’ll unveil the @CSNPreps Top 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 26. View Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Glenbard West

Head coach: Chad Hetlet

How they fared in 2015: 14-0 (6-0) West Suburban Silver Conference. Glenbard West made the Class 7A state playoff field. The Hilltoppers defeated Moline, Mount Carmel, Auburn, Cary-Grove and Libertyville to capture the title. 

Biggest storyline in 2016: Can the Hilltoppers repeat?

Names to watch this season: FB/DE Dionte Moorehead, LB Jackson Goleash​

​​​​​[PREPS: Edgy Tim's Countdown to Kickoff series]

Biggest holes to fill: Who picks up the offensive slack with the graduation of running back Sam Brodner (Wisconsin)?

EDGY's early take: Glenbard West returns 12 starters (five offense, seven defense) from its undefeated state title team last season, and whenever Hetlet has experience back on defense you can expect a strong year from Glenbard West.

Hilltoppers schedule:

Aug. 26 at Bolingbrook (7 p.m.)

Sept. 2 at Hinsdale South (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 9 at York (7:30 p.m.)

Sept. 17 vs. Downers Grove North (1:30 p.m.)

Sept. 24 vs. Lyons Township (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 1 at Hinsdale Central (12 p.m.)

Oct. 8 vs. Oak Park-River Forest (1:30 p.m.)

Oct. 14 at Proviso West (7:30 p.m.)

Oct. 22 vs. Addison Trail (1:30 p.m.)

Report: Tim Beckman volunteering as assistant coach at North Carolina

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Report: Tim Beckman volunteering as assistant coach at North Carolina

A year ago, Tim Beckman was fired as the head football coach at Illinois after an investigation, spurred by social-media accusations by former players, backed up claims of player mistreatment.

But Beckman is apparently back coaching up student-athletes.

According to a Tuesday-night report from the Champaign News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen, Beckman is serving as a volunteer assistant coach at North Carolina under head coach Larry Fedora.

Illinois plays North Carolina in its second game of the season under new head coach Lovie Smith.

In three seasons as the Illini head coach, Beckman oversaw little on-field success, his teams posting a collective 12-25 record, winning just four Big Ten games and making just one bowl appearance. On Mother's Day of last year, former Illinois offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic sent out a lengthy string of tweets accusing Beckman of forcing players to play injured, demeaning injured players and threatening to take players' scholarships away. An investigation into the program found evidence supporting those claims, and Beckman was fired a week prior to the start of the 2015 campaign.

Beckman released a statement defending himself but ended up settling with the university for a one-time payment of $250,000.

The Illini have had two head coaches since Beckman's firing. Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit was promoted to interim head coach for most of last season before agreeing to a two-year contract that made him the full-time head coach ahead of the Illini's final game of the season. Several months later, athletics director Josh Whitman in one of his first actions dismissed Cubit, then hired Smith a couple days later.

There's no telling whether Beckman, who worked alongside Fedora when the two were coordinators at Oklahoma State during the 2007 season, will be making the trip to Champaign for that game on Sept. 10.