Fire travel to Houston Tuesday


Fire travel to Houston Tuesday

The Fire thought it had cleared up Sebastian Grazzinis playing status last week, but maybe not.
Grazzini missed three days of practice last week, then was left off the travel roster for Fridays 1-0 win at Sporting Kansas City. Coach Frank Klopas said the lack of practice time kept Grazzini from playing against SKC.
Though Grazzini trained with the team in Bridgeview on Monday, he also didnt make the trip to Houston, where the Fire (8-5-3) visit the Dynamo (6-5-5) on Tuesday night. A club spokesman said Grazzini is staying home to tend to "personal matters in Chicago.
The club also has made it known that, contrary to the Major League Soccer Players Union website, Grazzini is not among the Fires lowest-paid players. The accuracy of the Players Union salary figures was discredited as they pertained to non-U.S. players.
Even without the Argentine midfielder, the Fire has been cruising. Klopas club will seek its fourth straight win against the Dynamo and also bid to be the first MLS team to win at the new BBVA Compass Stadium, the Houstons team home since May 12. The Dynamo is 4-0-2 there, and the Fire will get its first look at the facility on Tuesday.
Not since the 2005 season has the Fire won four straight. That year the Fire built a winning streak of the same size in late June and early July.
Tuesdays meeting comes in the middle game of a three-games-in-10-days stretch. The busy period concludes when the defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Galaxy, struggling with a 6-9-2 mark now, visit Toyota Park on Sunday. Los Angeles visit ends a streak of six straight Fire matches against Eastern Conference rivals.
In addition to Grazzini, the Fire will be without midfielder Rafael Robayo (shoulder injury) at Houston and striker Federico Puppo and goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi wont be available for the second straight game because of ankle injuries. Puppo, though, went through training on Monday.
Veteran defender Arne Friedrich, who left the Sporting Kansas City match with cramps after 72 minutes, and striker Chris Rolfe, who finished that one hobbling on a sore ankle, were deemed available to face the Dynamo and defender Gonzalo Segares returns after sitting out a one-game red card suspension.
In addition to visiting a new stadium the Fire will be challenged by a new star. Honduran international Boniek Garcia, Houstons newly-signed Designated Player, made his debut with the Dynamo in Sundays 2-1 home win against the Philadelphia Union. He looked good in that match, and Houston was rolling even before he arrived. The Dynamo was 4-0-1 in MLS play in June.

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Cubs' Carl Edwards Jr. looks to follow in Mariano Rivera's footsteps

Carl Edwards Jr. couldn't dream up a better pitcher to try to emulate than Mariano Rivera.

Not for a young right-hander who is still getting used to being a reliever with a cutter as his bread and butter pitch.

After picking up his first career save late in 2016, Edwards mentioned how he has been watching video of Rivera. At the Cubs Convention earlier this month, Edwards name-dropped Rivera again in response to a fan question and went into more detail with exactly what he's aiming to accomplish by watching Rivera tape.

Let's be clear: Mariano Rivera is inimitable. He's a once-in-a-lifetime talent and there almost assuredly will never be a better closer in Major League Baseball.

But Edwards knows that. 

"He's great. He's a Hall of Famer," Edwards said. "He goes out there like he has the world in the palm of his hand. He's very competitive; I've never seen him back down. That's one [takeaway] for myself — I'm gonna go out and never back down.

"I don't really get into trying to be like him. I just look more into how he goes about his business. That's something that I can control — how I go about my business."

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Cubs coach Mike Borzello was there with Rivera in 1997 when the now-legendary cutter was born.

It's not fair to compare Edwards' cutter to one of the greatest pitches ever, but his version is pretty nasty in its own right:

The Cubs are still searching for long-term answers in the rotation, but don't have any intentions of moving Edwards back to a role as a starter.

Like Edwards, Rivera began his career as a starting pitcher coming up through the Yankees system. But Edwards actually has a leg up on baseball's all time saves leader: Edwards' first save came in his age 24 season while Rivera didn't tally his first save until age 26 in New York.

Edwards also struck out 13 batters per nine innings in 2016 while Rivera never posted eye-popping whiff totals (a career 8.2 K/9 rate).

As Edwards gets set for what he and the Cubs hope will be his first full season in the big leagues in 2017, his maturation will be important in an age of baseball where relief pitchers have never been more valued.

Rivera pitched in the playoffs nearly every year, routinely working more than one inning and posting ridiculous postseason numbers: 0.70 ERA, 0.759 WHIP and 42 saves while taking home the World Series MVP in 1999 and ALCS MVP in 2003.

The Cubs hope Edwards will be pitching in the postseason on a regular basis, too.

For now, the 25-year-old is still reveling in the glory following the 2016 Cubs championship.

He served as honorary drummer at the Carolina Panthers game in November.

"That was pretty amazing. That's a highlight of my offseason," Edwards said.

He grew up as a Pittsburgh Steelers fan despite being a South Carolina native, but Edwards said he did get a pair of Cam Newton cleats to wear for 2017 when he and Cubs teammates like Addison Russell or Matt Szczur throw the football around in the outfield to get loose.

Edwards was also blown away by the reception from Cubs fans at the Convention — "This is my third year and every year as been better" — but still hasn't fully wrapped his mind around the ending of the 108-year drought.

"Everything happened so quick," he said. "Hopefully in the next couple weeks when I have a break, I can sit down and soak it all in."

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Vote for this week's High School Lites Viewers' Choice Game of the Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area basketball fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm. The show also live streams at High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, for the first time ever in our “Viewers’ Choice” poll, we will have girls basketball as our focus:

Warren at Lake Forest, 7:00pm

Glenbrook South at Maine South, 7:00pm

Vernon Hills at Maine West, 7:30pm

Poll opens Monday at 12:00pm and closes Thursday at 4:00pm. Here is what fans need to do to vote:

**Follow @CSNPreps on Twitter.

**Note the “pinned Tweet” atop the @CSNPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.

**Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @CSNPreps just after 4pm Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week,” along with other basketball news, scores and highlights this season.