Friedrich makes Fire debut in friendly vs. Louisville

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Friedrich makes Fire debut in friendly vs. Louisville

Arne Friedrich played in 82 matches for Germanys national team. Despite his star-studded career in Europe, his debut with the Fire on Saturday came against a bunch of college kids.

Not surprisingly, Friedrichs superior skill was clearly evident as he lasted 88 minutes in a 1-0 victory over the University of Louisville, a squad that included Fire first-round draft pick Austin Berry on its roster last season. On Saturday Berry played beside Friedrich in the middle of the Fires back line.

Though Fire coach Frank Klopas used 21 players, this match -- designed to keep the team fit during a bye week -- was all about Friedrich. He didnt play in the Fires first three Major League Soccer matches because his fitness wasnt up to snuff. Hes expected to be ready for Sundays home game against the Houston Dynamo, however.

"This is my target," said Friedrich. "(Saturday) was my first game after six months. Im about 70 percent, but to be 100 percent I need some games."

Not only did Friedrich, 32, play his first game for the Fire, it was also his first game of any kind in the United States.

"I played against the United States when I was with our national team," he said. "And I saw only two MLS games because in Germany it was hard to get it (on television)."

Friedrich feels he needs to improve his fitness and get to know his teammates better on the field, but otherwise his adjustment to a new city hasnt been difficult.

"Its been no problem. From the first day I liked this city and the people very much," he said. "And I got lucky with the weather.

His first match was played in beautiful conditions on the Toyota Park practice field, and that encouraged about 200 fans to turn out. A group of Section 8 supporters was particularly vocal while standing on a hill behind the south goal. Friedrich was almost as vocal on the field.

"The most important thing is for us to know each other," said Friedrich. "Sometimes weve got to talk more on the pitch, but this takes time. I want to help this team with my experience. The target is to get to the playoffs, and when we get there anything can happen."

Klopas called Friedrichs performance "solid" and said hed be ready for the Houston match.

"We pushed him as much as we could in this game," said Klopas. "It was an easy game for him. Its important for someone to be vocal like that, with the experience to guide you."

Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko and Dan Gargan didnt play against the collegians, and only Marco Pappa played the full 90 minutes. He scored the lone goal with an 18-yard blast off his left foot in the 12th minute.

Gargan, nursing a left toe injury, jogged along the sidelines before the match. Jalil Anibaba, who started beside Gibbs as a central defender in the first three matches, moved to Gargans spot on the right side but Klopas would give no indication what lineup hell use against the Dynamo.

Sean Johnson figures to return in goal after missing preseason and the first three MLS matches while spending time training with Everton of the English Premier League and the U.S. under-23 team in its bid to qualify for the Olympics. Klopas held him out of the last MLS match because he hadnt seen much game action lately, and the last of those appearances didnt go too well. Johnson came on as a reserve against El Salvador in the last match of Olympic qualifying and allowed a tying goal in stoppage time. The tie advanced El Salvador and eliminated the U.S. in the tournament.

Klopas said Johnson has shaken off that negative experience, but feels last years starting netminder isnt game-sharp yet. He played the first half and Paolo Tornaghi the second against Louisville. Johnson played all 90 minutes for the Fire reserves in a 2-1 loss at Colorado on Monday and will likely play in the reserves next match, on Tuesday at Sporting Kansas City, before Klopas decides on Sundays starter.

"His attitudes been very good in training," said Klopas, indicating that Johnson has shaken off the letdown vs. El Salvador.

"You just have to move on with your career," said Klopas. "You cant hold on and let that bother you. Whether youre a goalkeeper or not, you learn through difficult moments. Sean has learned from that."

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Preseason

AP Illinois preps football rankings: Preseason

Here are the preseason rankings of Illinois high school football teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters.

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Loyola (10) 0-0 100 -
2 Lincoln-Way East 0-0 79 -
3 Glenbard West 0-0 60 -
4 Homewood-Flossmoor 0-0 52 -
5 Edwardsville 0-0 39 -
6 Marist 0-0 37 -
7 Palatine 0-0 32 -
8 Waubonsie Valley 0-0 29 -
8 (tie) Glenbard North 0-0 29 -
10 Huntley 0-0 28 -

Other receiving votes: Brother Rice (27), Naperville Neuqua Valley (17), Stevenson (8), Oak Park River Forest (5), Naperville Central (5), Glenbard East (2), Oswego (1)

Class 7A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Chicago Mt. Carmel (7) 0-0 91 -
2 East St. Louis (2) 0-0 72 -
3 Batavia 0-0 64 -
4 Libertyville (2) 0-0 62 -
5 Normal Community 0-0 54 -
6 Bradley-Bourbonnais 0-0 46 -
7 Jacobs 0-0 37 -
8 Wheaton Warrenville South 0-0 33 -
9 St. Charles North 0-0 27 -
10 St. Rita 0-0 22 -

Other receiving votes: Benet (21), Geneva (13), Lake Zurich (12), Lincoln Way West (12), Wheaton North (11), Machesney Park Harlem (9), Niles North (9), Schaumburg (4), Whitney Young (3), Fenwick (2), Belleville West (1)

Class 6A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Montini (8) 0-0 104 -
2 Sacred Heart-Griffin (Spr) (2) 0-0 92 -
3 Cary-Grove (1) 0-0 88 -
3 (tie) Prairie Ridge 0-0 82 -
5 Crete-Monee 0-0 76 -
6 Rockford Auburn 0-0 25 -
7 Lemont 0-0 21 -
8 Providence 0-0 20 -
9 Belvidere North 0-0 16 -
10 St. Laurence 0-0 15 -
10 (tie) Quincy 0-0 15 -

Other receiving votes: Oak Lawn Richards (13), Hinsdale South (10), DeKalb (9), Kennedy (7), Danville (7), Riverside-Brookfield (5), Lakes Community (3), Normal West (3), Chatham Glenwood (3), Grayslake (3), Harvey Thornton (3), Lake Forest (2)

Class 5A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Nazareth (7) 0-0 119 -
2 Peoria Central (1) 0-0 107 -
3 Washington 0-0 101 -
4 Joliet Catholic (5) 0-0 83 -
5 Champaign Central 0-0 54 -
6 Sterling 0-0 34 -
7 Sycamore 0-0 30 -
7 (tie) Centralia 0-0 30 -
9 Metamora 0-0 26 -
10 Triad 0-0 24 -

Other receiving votes: Woodstock Marian (23), Highland (18), Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights) (17), Eisenhower (15), Tinley Park (8), St. Francis (6), Dunlap (6), Richwoods (4), LaSalle-Peru (4), Jacksonville (3), Glenbard South (1), Peoria Notre Dame (1), Chicago (Solorio Academy) (1)

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Phillips (11) 0-0 127 -
2 Althoff Catholic (2) 0-0 118 -
3 Rochester 0-0 99 -
4 Breese Mater Dei 0-0 68 -
5 Geneseo 0-0 52 -
6 Marengo 0-0 46 -
7 Mateno 0-0 45 -
8 Johnsburg 0-0 44 -
9 Richmond-Burton 0-0 36 -
10 Plano 0-0 28 -

Other receiving votes: Rockford Lutheran (17), Columbia (15), Taylorville (9), Quincy Notre Dame (5), Murphysboro (3), Rock Island Alleman (1), Herrin (1), Bethalto Civic Memorial (1)

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Bishop McNamara (8) 0-0 124 -
2 Tolono Unity (3) 0-0 110 -
3 Wilmington 0-0 75 -
4 IC Catholic (2) 0-0 63 -
5 Monticello 0-0 48 -
6 North-Mac 0-0 43 -
7 Pana 0-0 42 -
8 Newton 0-0 39 -
9 Paxton-Buckley-Loda 0-0 34 -
9 (tie) Byron 0-0 34 -

Other receiving votes: St. Joseph-Ogden (31), Bloomington Central Catholic (20), Carlinville (15), Elmwood-Brimfield (15), Breese Central (10), Williamsville (9), Princeton (8), Winnebago (5), Aurora Christian (5), Mercer County (3), Mt. Carmel (3), Herscher (2), Dwight (1), Westville (1), Marshall (1)

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Auburn (1) 0-0 90 -
2 Downs Tri-Valley 0-0 84 -
3 Maroa-Forsyth (2) 0-0 79 -
4 Deer Creek-Mackinaw (3) 0-0 73 -
5 Sterling Newman (1) 0-0 52 -
6 St. Bede 0-0 48 -
7 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley 0-0 35 -
7 (tie) Wethersfield 0-0 35 -
9 Mendon Unity 0-0 20 -
10 Orion 0-0 42 -

Other receiving votes: Rockridge (15), Nashville (14), Bismarck-Henning (11), Hall (11), Eldorado (7), DuQuoin (6), El Paso-Gridley (4), Champaign St. Thomas More (4), Villa Grove (4), Clifton Central (3), Chester (3), Fulton (3), Hamilton West Hancock (3), Eastland-Pearl City (1), Lawrenceville (1)

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1 Stark County (3) 0-0 91 -
2 Decatur St. Teresa (2) 0-0 76 -
3 Ottawa Marquette (1) 0-0 65 -
4 Lena-Winslow (2) 0-0 62 -
5 Tuscola 0-0 60 -
6 Forreston (2) 0-0 53 -
7 Carrollton 0-0 36 -
8 Dakota 0-0 31 -
9 Mt. Sterling (Brown County) 0-0 30 -
10 Athens (1) 0-0 27 -

Other receiving votes: LeRoy (26), Arcola (23), Bureau Valley (22), Stockton (16), Camp Point Central (13), Pawnee (11), Galena (6), Cerro Gordo (Cerro Gordo-Bement Coop) (5), Concord (Triopia) (4), Sidell (Jamaica)-Salt Fork (2), Hardin (Calhoun) (1)

How soon before Cubs make Javier Baez an everyday player?

How soon before Cubs make Javier Baez an everyday player?

SAN DIEGO — The airtight defensive alignment for October would have to include Javier Baez, a game-changing force moving in all directions. The Cubs have seen Baez make barehanded plays and laser throws, take charge on bunts and frustrate hitters with an uncanny ability to improvise and make split-second decisions.

Baez and Addison Russell are two of the best athletes in the entire game, Jake Arrieta said after Tuesday night’s win over the San Diego Padres, so put the ball in play and let those two middle infielders take over.

There could be playoff lineups where Baez starts at second base and bumps Ben Zobrist to the outfield. But manager Joe Maddon isn’t about to hand Baez an everyday job, sticking with the super-utility formula and versatile philosophy that’s helped the Cubs become the best team in baseball.

“It depends on how we morph as a group over the next couple years,” Maddon said Wednesday at Petco Park. “Right now, I like the way it’s working out. I like the fact that (Javy’s) getting rested (and) not playing every day. Look at his at-bats — they have gotten better, too. He is making adjustments or adaptations during the at-bat. He’s not just out of control every swing.”

Baez has channeled his aggressiveness, hitting .276 with 13 homers, 47 RBIs and 83 strikeouts through 343 plate appearances, becoming a more mature and well-rounded player at the age of 23.

“You’re seeing a lot of progress,” Maddon said. “Who knows if by playing sporadically this is becoming more part of who he is? As opposed to playing every day, maybe getting caught in the trap of not hitting well, whatever, and all of a sudden he takes it on defense. It’s natural progression. He’s an everyday player, there’s no question, in maybe a couple years.”

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The Geek Department and scouting reports will ultimately influence where Baez plays, because Maddon wants him wherever the ball will most likely be hit most often. When Jon Lester pitches, that can mean Baez starting at third base and Kris Bryant moving to the outfield.

The Cubs promised Zobrist the second-base job when he signed a four-year, $56 million contract, agreeing the focus on one position would help reduce the wear and tear on his body at the age of 35. The Cubs still need Zobrist’s switch-hitting skills and World Series experience in the lineup.

Maddon also wants to keep Jorge Soler involved — because he’s a presence other teams have to account for — and maybe that will mean sacrificing Jason Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field at times.

But Baez is the type of defender the Cubs will want to see out there in one-run, low-scoring playoff games.

“He’s unbelievable,” Bryant said. “Any ball hit his way — whether it’s in the air, on the ground, on line — you kind of just expect him to make the play and make it look good. That’s what he’s been doing all year. I certainly think he’s Gold Glove worthy, but he plays all over. I feel like there should be a utility man Gold Glove, because he definitely (deserves it).”

U.S. Cellular Field to become Guaranteed Rate Field after 2016 season

U.S. Cellular Field to become Guaranteed Rate Field after 2016 season

The White Sox announced on Wednesday they have signed a 13-year naming rights deal with Guaranteed Rate for their home ballpark, which will be known as Guaranteed Field beginning on Nov. 1, 2016. 

The Illinois Sports Facilities Authority approved the name change in a meeting on Wednesday.

"We are pleased to find, in Guaranteed Rate, a new naming rights partner founded in Chicago by Chicagoans, which shares our commitment to the city and to our fans," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said. "We view this partnership as an opportunity to connect a successful Chicago business with a historic baseball franchise, and we look forward to growing this important relationship over the coming years as millions of fans enjoy White Sox baseball at Guaranteed Rate Field."

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Under the team's lease for the ballpark, the White Sox retain an option that could extend the naming rights deal an additional year through 2030.

The White Sox played at Comiskey Park from 1991-2002 before the ballpark's name changed to U.S. Cellular Field from 2003-2016.