Nowak's absence felt in Philadelphia

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Nowak's absence felt in Philadelphia

The Fires opponent in a Sunday road match has had a rocky season, and the focal point of it was a Chicago legend. Peter Nowak is no longer the coach of the Philadelphia Union, but hes a factor in what has transpired in the clubs third season.
Last season the Union was a playoff team, the Fire was not. Now the Fire is closing in on a playoff berth while Philadelphia is struggling, and the circumstances surrounding Nowak are a big reason why.
Nowak was the first Fire captain. A former captain of the Poland national team, Nowak led the Fire to a shocking sweep of the Major League Soccer and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups in the clubs inaugural 1998 season. He retired as a player after four more campaigns with the Fire, then went into coaching.
He was as successful as a coach as he was a player. Nowak guided D.C. United to the MLS Cup in 2004, making him the only person to win that trophy as both a player and a coach. He then worked as an assistant to first Fire coach Bob Bradley with the U.S. national team and coached the 2008 U.S. Olympic squad before the Union made him its first coach.
The Union entered MLS in 2010 with Nowak as the manager (head coach) and executive vice president. The club was 8-15-7 in its first season and then made the playoffs after going 11-8-15 in 2011.
So far, so good for Nowak still a popular guy in Chicago soccer circles.
This season, though, has been something else. Despite last seasons successes Nowak opted to rebuild the Union. That led to the trades of striker Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver, captain Danny Califf to Chivas USA and forward Danny Mwanga to Portland. All three were popular players in Philadelphia, and Nowaks own popularity there declined after the Union started 2-7-2, scoring only eight goals in those 11 games.
Not only did the fans become disenchanted with Nowak, but Philadelphia chief executive officer Nick Sakiewicz had issues as well. They escalated when European media reports had Nowak applying for the vacant head coaching job with Scottish Cup winner Heart of Midlothian.
Though Nowak denied those reports Sakiewicz, tired of the controversies that had hampered his team all season, fired him on June 13. Sakiewicz only cited "philosophical differences" for the firing, but Nowak sued the Union for wrongful termination and unpaid severance money. Subsequent legal documents accused Nowak of hazing and other questionable practices. He was also dropped as coach of the MLS All-Stars for the mid-season match against Englands Chelsea.
With Nowak out, Sakiewicz put assistant coach John Hackworth in charge of the Union on an interim basis. The club has done better under him, going 5-4-0, but Philadelphia is still ninth of the 10 teams in the Eastern Conference. Only Toronto FC, the Fires 2-1 victim in its last game on Saturday, is behind the Union.
Theres a couple of other interesting ties between the Philadelphia saga and the Fire. The Unions last match was a 2-0 loss to the expansion Montreal Impact last Saturday on the road. The Impact is coached by Jesse Marsch, who played with Nowak in the Fires midfield and coached with him in the U.S. national team program.
Marsch has become a coach-of-the-year contender after guiding the new team to a 9-13-3 record and sixth place in the East (the Fire is fifth, five points head of the Impact and holding the final playoff position). Fire coach Frank Klopas, of course, played with both Nowak and Marsch on the first Fire team.
The current Union roster includes Bakary Soumare, who left the Fire under strange circumstances after being a finalist for MLS Defender-of-the-Year in 2008 and an MLS All-Star in 2009. Soumare, played in 63 matches for the Fire from 2007-09 and was part of the Fires last playoff team. His departure reportedly came after a fight with then-head coach Denis Hamlett during the halftime of a game. Hamletts contract wasnt renewed after the 2009 season.
Soumare, who spent the last three seasons primarily with French side Boulogne, has not played for the Union since Philadelphia acquired him on June 26. He had been nursing a right knee injury, but the Union listed him as probable for Sundays match.
Nowak wasnt with the Union when it visited the Fire on March 24 for the Toyota Park opener. The Fire won 1-0 on a Dominic Oduro goal while Nowak remained in Philadelphia with reported flu-like symptoms. Nowak remains fourth on the Fires all-time goal-scoring list with 26, trailing Ante Razov, Chris Rolfe and Josh Wolff. Marco Pappa pulled even with Nowak when he scored his 26th in the win over Toronto FC.
The Fire (10-7-5) goes to Philadelphia with a 3-5-3 record in MLS road games this season. Next home match is Aug. 18 against New England. There are 12 matches remaining before the playoffs begin on Oct. 31. The top five teams in each conference qualify for postseason play with the MLS Cup final is Dec. 1.

Blackhawks deal Andrew Shaw to Montreal for two draft picks

Blackhawks deal Andrew Shaw to Montreal for two draft picks

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Andrew Shaw had to wait until his third go-around in the NHL Draft before he was selected by the Blackhawks. Two Stanley Cups later, he became a big part of this group.

Like several before him, he said he wanted to stay here. Like several before him, it didn’t happen.

Shaw was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for two second-round selections, as the NHL Draft began on Friday. The forward was going to become a restricted free agent next Friday. And while both sides said they hoped to find a deal to keep Shaw in Chicago, the deal didn’t come.

The Blackhawks get two second-round picks, the 39th and 45th overall selections, in this draft. That now gives them 10 selections in this draft.

Coach Joel Quenneville talked of Shaw’s importance to the team prior to the draft’s start on Friday. His grittiness made him a fan favorite, and Shaw was someone the Blackhawks could always rely on to be that net-front presence.

“He’s one of those players that you appreciate and he’s so versatile and the intangibles jump off the page when we’re talking about him,” Quenneville said. “It’s a situation where players are in some situations where contracts need to be signed and his importance, contributions we’ve seen over the years has been pretty amazing for us.”

Whether it came down to a big money gap between the two parties, as it did with the Blackhawks and Brandon Saad last year, or something else isn’t known yet. Stan Bowman will likely talk following the first round’s conclusion.

Shaw talked in April of how much he wanted to stay here. At the time, it seemed unlikely, considering the Blackhawks’ cap issues. But after Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen were traded more than a week ago, freeing up more than $4 million in cap space, it seemed more likely Shaw would stay. But he won’t.

Jose Abreu out of White Sox lineup with sore leg

Jose Abreu out of White Sox lineup with sore leg

The White Sox held Jose Abreu out of the lineup on Friday and they’re hopeful it will be enough time for his sore leg to heal.

Manager Robin Ventura said Abreu -- who has a .997 OPS in June with five home runs and 20 RBIs in 89 plate appearances -- has experienced tightness in the back of his right leg, “but his left leg is the one that’s really sore,” he said. While Abreu could be used as a pinch hitter, Ventura said the absence is mandatory.

“He definitely needs (a day off) today -- he needs to be able to stay off it and not even DH,” Ventura said. “He’s a big guy. That’s part of the some of the stuff we’ve done the last couple of years is to get him a day here and there and in this one, he just needs it. He’s been on base quite a bit and as sore as his leg feels, it also looks not too good, either.”

Abreu agrees with Ventura’s call as he sees it geared toward the big picture. The first baseman could be seen limping some during Thursday’s contest, one day after he was hit in the leg by a pitch.

“Sometimes your legs are getting tired and your hamstring is getting tight and you need a break,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Today is a break for me. I came early, I did all my treatments. So far, so good for now. But, yes, I needed this day off.

“You always want to play, but sometimes you also have to realize that the best thing you can do is just to take a break thinking of the future.”

Todd Frazier started at first base for the White Sox and Tyler Saladino was at third with Abreu out of the lineup for only the second time all season.

Montini's Mitch West gives verbal commitment to Purdue

Montini's Mitch West gives verbal commitment to Purdue

Montini Catholic senior DB Mitch West (5-foot-11, 175 pounds), as expected, gave the Purdue Boilerm​akers his verbal commitment. West added an offer from Purdue earlier this week after making an unofficial visit.

"I just fell in love with Purdue so I committed," West said. "I've always dreamed of playing in the Big Ten and it's too hard to pass up the opportunity."

West, who had offers from a handful of FCS level programs, impressed the Boilermakers coaching staff at a recently held satellite camp at North Central College in Naperville.