Gargan hopes to play vs. Rapids

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Gargan hopes to play vs. Rapids

Its not a sure thing that Dan Gargan will be at his usual right back spot for the Fire when the club visits the Colorado Rapids on Sunday. The veteran defender was slowed during the training sessions leading into the match by a sore left toe.

But, perhaps more than any other regular season match in Major League Soccer, Gargan wants to play in this one. The fact that Gargan spent the first four seasons of his MLS career with the Rapids is one thing. But this goes deeper than a player wanting to show off against a team that released him in April of the 2008 season.

In this case theres bragging rights on the line with Jeff Larentowicz, a defensive midfielder for the Rapids. Plenty of former teammates have squared off in MLS over the years, but the Gargan-Larentowicz connection goes back much further than most. They started playing together as students at Clark grade school in Philadelphia, then continued on as teammates at Chestnut Hill Academy, where they helped that school rule the Inter-academic League -- the oldest private school league in the U.S. -- as both juniors and seniors.

"Not just sports but, looking back, we had English class and math class together. We spent countless hours together, said Gargan. "And this wont be the first time weve played against each other. But its still special every time. Itll be a fun game for me.

Actually, they were rivals even in their high school days when they werent playing for Chestnut Hill.

"We werent on the same club team, said Gargan, who played for the Coppa youth team while Larentowicz captained Delco Arsenal, which won U.S. Youth Soccer Assn. national titles in 2002 and 2003.

Youth soccer was strong in the Philadelphia area at that time. Two other MLS veterans, Bobby Convey and Chris Albright played for arch-rival Penn Charter in high school matches, and Convey was Gargans teammate with Coppa in club play. Last week Gargan squared off with Albright when the Fire defeated the Philadelphia Union 1-0 for its first victory of the season.

After high school graduation in 2001 Gargan played at Georgetown while Larentowicz performed for Brown. Though Chestnut Hills strong program produced lots of Division I soccer players, only Gargan and Larentowicz are still playing. Gargan is 29, Larentowicz 28.

Gargan was drafted 43rd overall by the Rapids in 2005, and he played in 49 matches for them from 2005-2007. They released him early in the 2008 season, and he signed with Chivas USA two weeks later but personal problems led to him retiring three weeks later without playing a game.

He restarted his career in 2009, playing for the Puerto Rico Islanders of the United Soccer League. Toronto FC brought him back into MLS in 2010, and he started 37 times for that club before being traded to the Fire for defender Dasan Robinson on July 28 of last year. Gargan was a key late-season acquisition, starting nine times in a strong stretch run that saw the Fire barely miss the playoffs.

Larentowiczs career is similar. He was the 45th pick in the 2005 MLS supplemental draft by the New England Revolution and stayed with the Revs through the 2009 season. They sent him to the Rapids in a five-player trade prior to the 2010 season. Hell return to the Rapids lineup Sunday after serving a one-game suspension for drawing two yellow cards in the previous match.

Gargan and Larentowicz trained together briefly after Larentowicz was traded to the Rapids, and Larentowicz stood up in Gargans wedding in January. Both their families still live in the Philadelphia area.

Both also know about the altitude in Denver that has been known to bother visiting teams.

"In the time I was there I was in the best shape of my life, said Gargan. "When Id come out for practices I felt I could run for days. Once you hit altitude you feel it. Its crazy how quickly you get dehydrated. Playing in it (on a daily basis) is definitely a benefit, and the teams in Colorado havent taken as much advantage of it as they should.

The Fire hopes the Rapids wont take advantage of it in this the third game of the season. Its a key one, based on what transpired last season. As was the case in 2011, the Fire is off to 1-0-1 start. Last years Game 3 started a tailspin in which the Fire didnt win again for three months. The club doesnt want that to happen again.

27 Days to Kickoff: Whitney Young

27 Days to Kickoff: Whitney Young

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will 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. You can view Edgy Tim's other football previews here.

School: Whitney Young

Head coach: Tim Franken

Assistant coaches: Victor Marin, Chris Mallette, Cam Browns and Matt Derrig.

How they fared in 2015: 9-1 (7-0) CPL Chicago Big Shoulders Conference. Whitney Young made the Class 7A state playoff field and lost to Niles North in opening-round action.

Biggest storyline in 2016: How will the Dolphins fare moving up to the CPL Illini Red Bird conference this season?

Names to watch this season: RB Ke'Vaughn Chappell, OL/DL Justeon Kimmons

Biggest holes to fill: Can the Dolphins find some answers at quarterback and linebacker after graduation losses from this past spring?

EDGY's Early Take: Whitney Young has been very strong over the past few seasons, and now comes a move up in competition to the rugged CPL Illinois Red Bird conference. Having an All-State running back in Chappell and four returning offensive linemen should help the Dolphins chances this season.

'It's about effort': Team USA proves there's more than one way to win

'It's about effort': Team USA proves there's more than one way to win

For more than six and a half minutes in the second quarter of Friday night’s exhibition game against Venezuela, the United States men’s national team looked lost.

The prohibitive favorite in the Rio Olympics missed 13 consecutive shots, committed two turnovers and was called for a shot clock violation, an almost unimaginable infraction considering the level of talent across the board on the floor.

The offense remained stagnant much of the night, a rare occurrence for a team that had looked unstoppable in averaging 108 points in their first three contests. But in their 80-45 thumping of Venezuela, Mike Krzyzewski’s group proved it has more ways to win a game than simply outshooting its opponent.

A combination of tenacious rebounding and determined defense allowed the Americans to move to 4-0 in exhibition play in their second-to-last tune-up before next month’s Olympic Games, where they’ll attempt to three-peat as gold medal winners.

“Two of the consistent parts of the game we did great with tonight, and that is you can play really good defense and you can rebound every night,” Krzyzewski said after the game. “Because it’s about effort. And our guys have given that effort.”

Playing without their top player, Nets point guard Greivis Vasquez, Venezuela hung around in the first quarter thanks in part to Team USA’s cold shooting. They even took a 12-10 lead on back-to-back triples from John Cox, who finished with a team-high 14 points. The Americans opened the game 3-for-10 before finishing the quarter on a 12-2 run. Kyrie Irving was the lone starter to shoot better than 50 percent (4-for-7); the other four starters combined to shoot just 8-for-31 (25.8 percent).

And yet during their dry spell in the second quarter, which included five scattered free throws, Team USA was able to increase its lead from 13 to 14 with stifling defense and stellar rebounding; in that same span Venezuela committed two turnovers and missed nine of 11 field goal attempts, with only one offensive rebound to show for it.

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“We played great defense. We didn’t score but they didn’t score,” said Kevin Durant, who finished 3-for-9 with nine points. “That’s the name of the game for us. If we don’t score we can’t let the other team score. It’s simple.”

Venezuela shot just 24 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers. Cox, the cousin of Kobe Bryant, said the Americans' ability to switch at each position made each possession difficult.

"They’re so good because they can switch everything because of their length and athleticism. So I don’t think there’s another team in the Olympics that can do that," he said. "It’s difficult to take advantage on offense, and they’re talented and they’re going to be tough to beat because they switch down the line. Even their bigs can move their feet with our guards and other guards, so they’ll be a tough matchup. And that’s why they’re special."

The Americans were also helped in the defensive struggle by superb rebounding across the board. DeMarcus Cousins finished with a team-high 13 rebounds, Carmelo Anthony added nine of his own and Jimmy Butler, playing in front of a home Chicago crowd, snatched eight boards. Team USA won the battle of the boards, 54-29, outperforming the +21 rebounding advantage they had amassed in their first three games.

“You get 54 rebounds and we’re playing defense right to the very end, and that’s what I’m looking for,” Krzyzewski said. “The fact that the ball was not going in and they were playing very good defense against us does not stop us from giving a really quality effort, especially on the board and the defensive end.”

Team USA flipped the switch in the second half, with the bench unit beginning the third quarter on a 12-4 run that pushed the lead to 26 points. The Americans then made 10 of 12 shots in the final stanza posting 24 points on an array of outside shots – Klay Thompson connected on a pair of triples – and highlight reel dunks from DeAndre Jordan and DeMar DeRozan.

Team USA finished the contest shooting 43 percent from the field, nearly seven percentage points worse than their team average entering the contest. Their four made 3-pointers, three of which came from Thompson, were a far cry from the 39 they connected on in their first three games.

But their ability to shoot out of character for 40 minutes – the 80 points were tied for the second fewest for an Olympic team under Coach K – and still win handily was a positive sign for Krzyzewski.

Eight of Team USA’s 13 players averaged 20 or more point per game last season – Paul George rested with a sore calf. And its two returning players from the 2012 team, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, have five NBA scoring titles to their name. They’ve also got four players who have won NBA titles while playing for historically good offenses (Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Thompson for Golden State; Kyrie Irving for Cleveland).

[SHOP: Buy a Jimmy Butler Team USA shirt]

“We’re gonna knock shots down. We’ve got the best players in the world, the best shooters in the world, best penetrators in the world,” Durant said. “Shots don’t really matter to us. We played great defense and I think that’s what we’ve been doing the whole trip.”

There’s little doubt they’ll find their shooting touch in time for their opening round game on Aug. 6 against China. Krzyzewski even hinted at the team needing to find more comfort and rhythm using the international basketball, though he was quick to denounce that as an excuse for the poor shooting. 

After breezing through three exhibition games, winning by 37, 49 and 50 points, the Americans were forced to work in a different fashion for their victory Friday night. The final margin, 35, wasn’t indicative of the effort Team USA needed to show in order to pull away. They did show that effort, and it’s something that will serve them well moving forward when the games count.

“To be quite frank I’m very pleased about tonight,” Krzyzewski said, “because you don’t just want to hit 17 threes and not work hard.

"We had to work real hard tonight and we won.”

Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension

Bears sign Willie Young to two-year contract extension

Watch out Bass Pro Shops: Willie Young may be stopping in with a bag full of money.

The Bears announced Saturday morning they have agreed to a two-year contract extension with the veteran outside linebacker.

Young, who was heading into his final season of a three-year deal he inked with the Bears in 2014, is now signed with the team through the 2018 season.

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Bears fans!

The 30-year-old Young finished second on the Bears last season with 6.5 sacks after switching from defensive end to outside linebacker in Vic Fangio's base 3-4 defense. Young notched a career-high in sacks with 10 during the 2014 season.

Young, originally a seventh-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, has amassed 97 tackles and 22.5 sacks in 141 career games.