Johnson absent for Fire opener

704966.png

Johnson absent for Fire opener

The Montreal Impact suffered a disappointing result in their MLSdebut, but they hope to take advantage of what's expected to be afull house in their home opener.The Impact go for their first win Saturday when they take on theChicago Fire, who will be without starting goaltender Sean Johnsonin their season opener.After playing in various other leagues for nearly two decades,Montreal joined the MLS, becoming the league's 19th team. TheImpact weren't able to pick up a win in their debut, losing 2-0 toVancouver last Saturday."The disappointing part is that it happened so quickly into thegame,'' said coach Jesse Marsch, whose team gave up the first goalin the fourth minute. "We don't even give ourselves a chance forthe game to settle in, and we're already down 1-0."While nerves could be blamed for the poor start, Montreal didhave its chances, putting seven shots on goal.The Impact will try for better results in their home opener atOlympic Stadium. Montreal announced that more than 50,000 ticketshave been sold."Now that we have a game under our belt, we'll be more focusedon exactly what the game is going to require," Marsch, a member ofthe Fire from 1998-2005, told the league's official website. "Wehave enough guys who have played in front of big crowds and in biggames. It's going to be a good opportunity to show the city who weare."Chicago will be looking to quiet that full stadium in itsopener."They'll be trying as much as possible to play the crowd and tointimidate us and the officials," said forward Dominic Oduro, wholed the Fire with 12 goals last season. "I believe we have a goodteam in terms of experience in chemistry to go in and get pointsout of it."The Fire missed the playoffs for a second straight year in 2011despite finishing strong after a poor start, going 7-1-2 in theirfinal 10 games.A big reason for that success was the play of Johnson. He gaveup 12 goals during that 10-game stretch, though he'll miss thefirst three contests this season while playing for the UnitedStates in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying action.Chicago has not said whether it will start veteran Jay Nolly or23-year-old Paolo Tornaghi in his place."Jay is an experienced guy, and Paolo, his experience isdifferent," coach Frank Klopas told the Fire's official website."He's not the kid out of the draft or college, he's been in a goodenvironment. We're comfortable with either choice."Chicago returns most of last season's roster, including Oduroand Patrick Nyarko, who had a team-best nine assists.The Fire added some depth behind them in Colombian midfielderRafael Robayo and German defender Arne Friedrich, who appeared in82 games for his national team.With Montreal playing in front of what should be an emotionalcrowd, Chicago's goal is to get off to a quick start."It would be huge to go in and get an early goal to take themout of it and calm us down," Oduro said.Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

vinniehinostrozabears.jpg
AP

Hawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks' bottom six steps up in Colorado

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Jamal Mayers discuss the bottom six carrying the Blackhawks to a come-from-behind win over the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night.

Later, Mayers weighs in on possible targets with the NHL trade deadline just six weeks away.

Listen to the latest episode of the Hawks Talk Podcast below:

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Pro Football Focus gives Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman historical 2016 grade

Bears GM Ryan Pace struck gold with his signing of Jerrell Freeman last offseason.

Freeman, who signed a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bears last March, was graded as the NFL's No. 1 inside linebacker in 2016, according to Pro Football Focus.

Freeman's 93.8 overall grade was PFF's third-highest defensive grade behind Los Angeles Rams All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald (95.6) and Oakland Raiders standout edge rusher Khalil Mack (93.9). 

Here's what PFF's Mike Renner had to say about Freeman's historic 2016 season:

One of the most impressive pure statistics any player amassed this season came from Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman. He made 40 tackles in coverage while missing only one tackle attempt. That ratio is insane, and it’s the best we’ve recorded since 2012. That’s about the only exciting stat, though, as the Bears’ front-seven desperately missed a fully-healthy Pernell McPhee for a good portion of the year.

Despite Freeman's outstanding season, he was left off of PFF's All-Pro Team for 2016. Although he was ranked ahead of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner (91.6) and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (92.9), PFF likely omitted Freeman due to him missing four games with a PED suspension.

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]

In his first season with the Bears, the 30-year-old Freeman led the team with 110 tackles (the next highest total was Harold Jones-Quartey's 78). Freeman also finished with a team-high 7 tackles for a loss. 

Check out a snapshot below of Freeman's PFF metrics from last season:

If there's any doubt about Freeman's play falling off after serving a suspension, he put that theory to rest. Freeman's second-best game grade came in Week 17 against the Minnesota Vikings (3.5). Freeman also had a positive grade (1.4) in his first game coming off the suspension against the Washington Redskins in Week 16.

"People know me," Freeman told the media after returning from suspension. "People know who I am. People know what I'm about. I wouldn't do that on purpose. I made a mistake and that's what it is. It's not like I was going out of my way to do something (illegal). But it happened. It's my fault and I take responsibility for it."