Fire preps for Combine, SuperDraft

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Fire preps for Combine, SuperDraft

This is the first big week of 2013 for the Fire. The club will announce its full regular season schedule on Wednesday, and coach Frank Klopas and his staff will begin scouting over 50 collegiate stars at the Major League Soccer Combine, which begins a four-day run on Friday at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Fla.
The Combine leads into the Jan. 17 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis, and that figures to bring the Fire a player who can help immediately. At least the last two SuperDrafts did. The Fires first picks in 2011 and 2012 were defenders Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry. Neither needed much time to establish themselves as starters, and Berry the ninth overall pick of 2012 out of the University of Louisville wound up the MLS Rookie-of-the-Year.
MLS has already signed five players who will participate in the Combine, and two are Notre Dame products forward Ryan Finley and midfielder Dillon Powers. The other three poised to take roster spots on MLS clubs are Connecticut midfielder Carlos Alvarez, Boston College midfielder Kyle Becker and Maryland midfielder John Stertzer.
A day after the SuperDraft, Fire players gather at Toyota Park for two days of medical exams. Then theyre off to Florida for a 10-day camp at Ave Maria University near Naples. During that stretch the Fire will play two matches Jan. 27 vs. Florida Gulf Coasts college team at Ave Maria and Jan. 30 vs. the Columbus Crew at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Once again the Fire wont have starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson for the first phase of preseason training. He was called up to the U.S. national team for a Jan. 7-27 camp that culminates with a Jan. 29 international friendly against Canada in Houston.
Johnson, a frequent callup by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, has earned his two national team caps in January matches. His first came Jan. 22, 2011, vs. Chile in Los Angeles and his second was Jan. 25, 2012, vs. Panama in Panama City.
The offseason has again been a busy one for Johnson. He spent last month training with England clubs. He was with Stoke City from Dec. 5-9 and Everton from Dec. 10-23.
Johnsons time with the Fire could also be limited in February, assuming hes called up for training for the first U.S. match in the next stage of World Cup qualifying at Honduras on Feb. 6.
After its Florida session the Fire returns home for a few days, then heads to Ventura, Calif., for the second phase of training. The third and final one is the four-team Carolina Cup competition in Charleston, S.C. It leads into the March 3 regular season opener, a road match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs visit White House as World Series champions

On the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Kaplan is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) to discuss the Cubs' visit to the White House.

The guys reflect on the historic day and Theo Epstein's speech. Then, the panel breaks down the Packers' impressive run and question whether it's okay for Bears fans to appreciate Aarond Rodgers and company.

Finally, are the Wild the Blackhawks' biggest threat come playoff time?

Listen to the SportsTalk Live podcast below.

 

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

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USA TODAY

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

Midfield has been an area of focus this offseason for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and another new addition to that group was added on Monday.

The Fire have traded $400,000 in general allocation money in return for midfielder Dax McCarty from the New York Red Bulls. Paul Tenorio of Four Four Two first reported the trade.

McCarty was an All-Star in 2015 and part of the league's Best XI that season when he had eight assists to go with a goal. Last season he made 26 starts for the Red Bulls and totaled three goals and had five assists.

"Since the middle of 2016, we made acquiring Dax our No. 1 priority," Rodr√≠guez said in the club's press release. "We believe adding his character and leadership in the locker room, as well as his exceptional soccer abilities on the field, dramatically improves our team."

The last time McCarty played at Toyota Park was a 2-2 draw on July 31 when a Khaly Thiam tackle caused a fractured tibia, which forced McCarty to sit out a month.

McCarty got married on Saturday, which delayed his arrival to the current U.S. national team camp. McCarty's participation in national team camp means he will join the Fire's preseason already in progress. The final match of the camp is on Feb. 3 while the Fire are set to start preseason on January 23.

McCarty, 29, has spent the past five and a half seasons with the Red Bulls. He began his career by playing five seasons for FC Dallas and was with D.C. United for part of the 2011 campaign before being traded to the Red Bulls. As an 11-year league veteran and the Red Bulls' captain, McCarty adds leadership and experience which Rodriguez has prioritized this offseason.

The Fire already added a former MLS All-Star in midfield this offseason in Juninho. The pair could line up next to each other in the preferred 4-2-3-1 coach Veljko Paunovic used for most of last season. This also could potentially put Matt Polster's role with the team in question. As the roster stands now, the third-year midfielder would be competing for two veteran All-Star caliber midfielders who were brought in at a high price.

Not to suggest a position move is in the works for Polster, but he did split time between midfield and right back with the Fire in 2015 under coach Frank Yallop and played there for the U-23 national team in Olympic qualifying. Right back remains a position of need by Rodriguez's own admission.

The trade also adds further context to the Fire trading the No. 3 pick in the draft on Friday. The Fire swapped the pick for $250,000 in general allocation money from New York City FC and Tenorio is reporting the Fire will send $400,000 to the Red Bulls for McCarty. To add those two moves together, the Fire dealt the No. 3 overall pick and $150,000 of allocation money for McCarty.