Fire prepare for third game in nine days

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Fire prepare for third game in nine days

Defensively, the Fire was just fine in Wednesday nights 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park, and thats encouraging given the fact that coach Frank Klopas went with a rookie in the back again and had to use a sub back there as well.

Klopas gave Austin Berry his second straight start as a central defender. Berry, the clubs first-round pick in the last Major League Soccer SuperDraft, saw his first game action in Saturdays 2-1 road win over Chivas USA because Jalil Anibaba was serving a one-game suspension.

Anibaba was available this time, but Klopas went with Berry again and it proved a smart decision because Berry was designated as the Man of the Match.

"The team went on the road and won, and I didnt want to change anything," said Klopas, in explaining his decision to stick with Berry.

Anibaba got into the match anyway, in the 51st minute when Klopas felt there was a problem with Dan Gargan on the right side.

"He a warrior, but hes been fighting through certain things and he grabbed his leg," said Klopas. "I wanted fresh legs on that side."

So, Anibaba helped the Fire finish out the first clean sheet of the season for Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson who had played four matches without getting one. The Fire (3-2-3) had just one previous shutout, with Paolo Tornaghi in the nets in the second game of the season on March 24.

Johnson, who played well during some trying times for the team the past two seasons, got his career MLS record above .500 (15-14-16) with his 11th career shutout.

But the play of the four in front of him is noteworthy, since the Fire lost two of last years central defenders, Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta, in the offseason and mainstay Cory Gibbs to knee surgery after the season started. Arne Friedrich, the German veteran, is still rounding into shape after not playing for six months.

"It (his fitness) is getting better every game. A couple more and I should be 100 percent," Friedrich said.

Even in less than ideal shape and playing beside an inexperienced partner, Friedrich likes what hes seeing with the Fire backliners.

"Playing with Austin is perfect," said Friedrich. "Hes very disciplined and organized on the pitch and very good on headers. Everybody know what everybody else is doing."

"Arne is easy to talk to," chimed in Berry. "The whole back line has done a good job communicating and we got the shutout this time a good showing by us."

Enough for the good stuff.

The Fire still could get the goal that would have produced a big victory over the best time in the Western Conference on a night when long-time defensive stalwart C.J. Brown was inducted into the coveted Ring of Fire. Brown is now an assistant coach for RSL (7-3-2) despite getting some great chances.

Dominic Oduros header off the crossbar in the fourth minute set the disappointing tone for the Fire offensively, and Marco Pappa and Rafael Robayo had good chances as the match progressed. The Fire has nine goals in its eight MLS matches and was blanked for the second time on Wednesday, the middle game of its first busy stretch of the season.

The Fire completes a three-games-in-nine-nights stretch on Saturday when Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City (7-2-0) comes to Bridgeview.

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

President Obama on Joe Maddon: 'Not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy'

As one of the cooler presidents ever, President Obama knows cool when he sees it.

The president talked about numerous members of the Cubs during the team's visit to the White House on Monday, but he only offered the "cool" label to manager Joe Maddon, who most folks can agree is probably the coolest person to ever manage the Cubs.

"Let's face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy. Look how he looks right now," Obama said, pointing out Maddon's non-traditional suit. "That's cool."

The president also praised Maddon's unique style, with his themed road trips and visits from zoo animals, as well as his on-field prowess, throwing in a joke about something the skipper couldn't control during the World Series.

"He's got a lot tricks to motivate. But he's also a master of tactics and knows how to make the right move at the right time: when to pinch hit, when to pinch run, when to make it rain in Game 7 of the World Series. It was masterful."

Maybe President Obama really does admire Maddon's style. Or maybe he's just extending his bromance with Vice President Biden to other famous Joes.

Check out the video above for more from the president.

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

Unlike her husband, Michelle Obama hasn't made a big deal out of her baseball fandom over the past eight years.

But as President Obama mentioned while he honored the World Series champion Cubs on Monday at the White House, it turns out the First Lady is a pretty big Cubs fan and watching the Cubs win the World Series meant an awful lot to her.

"It is no secret that there's a certain South Side team that has my loyalty," the president said. "So I can't claim that I have the same visceral joy of some in this White House. But FLOTUS is a lifelong Cubs fan, and I will tell you ... in the eight years that I've been here, we've hosted at least 50 teams. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, you name it. Michelle has never come to a single event celebrating a champion until today. She came and shook hands and met with every one of these members of the Cubs organization and told a story about what it meant for her to be able to see them win. She remembers coming home from school, and her dad would be watching a Cubs game, and the bond and the family, the meaning that the Cubs had for her in terms of connecting with her father and why it meant so much to her. And I almost choked up listening to it. And it spoke, I think, to how people feel about this organization and that it's been passed on generation after generation. It's more than just sports."

And one ex-Cub even got a special invite to the White House so the First Lady could meet her all-time favorite player. That was former pitcher Jose Cardenal, once famous for his large afro. According to President Obama, his wife used to try and wear her hat over her afro just like Cardenal did.

So while President Obama was presented with a lifetime pass to Wrigley Field, perhaps it's Michelle who will get more use out of it.

Check out more from the president in the video above.