Winless April draws to an end for Fire

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Winless April draws to an end for Fire

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 10:59 p.m.

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com
The Chicago Fire extended their winless streak to five games and ended the month of April without a win for the first time in the franchises 13-year history after drawing with the Colorado Rapids 1-1 Saturday night in Commerce City, Co.

It was a difficult match, Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said postgame. I thought we played a very good first half, but I think it was a good match, difficult because both teams are having a difficult moment.

With the draw, Colorado ended their three-game losing streak, but extended its winless streak to four games.

Were going in for three points, Fire forward Dominic Oduro said. Even though the season is young, weve just been crawling on the table. Well take one point against losing a game right now its good start in a positive direction.

Despite the Rapids owning possession for more than two-thirds of the first half, the Fire dominated in early scoring chances, and netted the games opening goal in the forty-third minute. Marco Pappas third goal of the season was set up by a Gastn Puerari chipped lead pass to Oduro along the right sideline. Oduro, using his prodigious speed, outran his marker, Anthony Wallace, into the box, and made a centering pass to Pappa.

Oduros pass just beat Rapids defender Tyrone Marshalls sliding effort to clear, and a falling Pappa was able to direct his first touch into the back of the net.

Weve been working on this in practice, Oduro said. All I had to do was play the ball right to him and he did a great job in finishing.

Things didnt play out as easily for the Fire after the goal. A failed possession and a lapse in defensive form helped the Rapids equalize the game just after halftime.

After a failed counter-attack, a Fire turnover in its defensive third went to the most dangerous man on the pitch, Rapids striker Omar Cummings. Catching Fire defender Yamith Cuesta floating without a mark, Cummings slid the ball to Andre Akpan, who blasted a shot from ten-yards out, hitting the upper left corner of the net after Fire goaltender Jon Conways fingertips could not deflect the ball away.

The forty-ninth minute goal was Akpans first in Major League Soccer.

Both teams locked down on defense in the second half, but relied on its goaltenders to make big stops down the stretch. Conway, starting his third consecutive game for the Fire, made five saves in the game.

Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos used a five-man midfield against Colorado with captain and central midfielder Logan Pause out of the game with right hamstring injury. In Pauses absence, Pappa wore the captains armband Saturday.

The injury and formation shift gave Corben Bone and newcomer Daniel Paladini their first starts of the season. Bone went seventy-five minutes before being replaced by Orr Barouch.

Oduro, who played out wide Saturday, thought the five-man midfield helped the team stay compact in the middle and win more balls. His coach agreed, despite the games unfavorable outcome.

I liked the new formation, de los Cobos said. I liked it because my intention today was to have the ball, to keep the ball, because its important, when you have control of the game, you have to have control of the ball. These guys Bone and Paladini have this skill, this quality.

"I think Paladini was very important for us this game, de los Cobos continued. He was the balance of the team.

The Fire lost central defender Josip Mikuli in the thirty-ninth minute to a shoulder injury sustained in a collision with Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Mikuli went down because of the injury three times in the first half, forcing de los Cobos hand. Central defender Dasan Robinson replaced Mikuli and played a solid fifty-one minutes in relief.

The draw gave the Fire its sixth point through seven games. Chicago sits in eighth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of last-place Sporting Kansas City, which lost 1-0 to Red Bull New York Saturday afternoon.

The Fires next game will be May 7 against the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Park.

Cubs: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Cubs: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system at 9:51 p.m. on Wednesday as Aroldis Chapman trotted toward the mound. Nothing would get lost in translation as the Cubs unleashed their new closer on the White Sox.

Chapman didn’t feel the full rush of adrenaline, because a revived offense scored five runs in the eighth inning, ending the save situation and any real suspense for the crowd of 41,166. The game within the game became looking up at the 3,990-square-foot LED video board in left field for the velocity reading after each pitch and listening to the oohs and aahs.

Chapman made it look easy against the middle of the White Sox lineup, with 13 of his 15 pitches clocked between 100 and 103 mph in the ninth inning of an 8-1 victory. That triple-digit default setting, fluid left-handed delivery and intimidating presence showed why the Cubs made a game-changing trade with the New York Yankees.

The first impressions from Tuesday’s press conference apparently bothered Chapman enough that he initially refused to speak to the reporters waiting around his locker after his debut. There had been questions about his 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, the off-the-field expectations from chairman Tom Ricketts and where the wires got crossed with coach/translator Henry Blanco.

After taking a shower – and listening to a few associates inside the clubhouse – Chapman agreed to two minutes of questions with catcher Miguel Montero acting as his translator.

“It happened,” Chapman said when asked about his portrayal in the Chicago media. “Don’t want to go further with it.”

The controversy will begin to fade after Chapman struck out Jose Abreu swinging at a 91-mph slider that almost scraped the dirt, forced Todd Frazier into a routine groundball and struck out pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia looking at a 103-mph fastball.

“It’s just entertaining to watch the gun, beyond everything else,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a different kind of a pitcher. You don’t see that every 100 years or so. He’s just that good. Everybody talks about the fastball. How good is the slider? The slider is devastating.

“He was very calm in the moment. He was able to get through the last couple days to go out there. It was almost good it wasn’t a save situation just to get his feet on the ground.”

Picture the drama and the excitement when Chapman isn’t throwing with a seven-run lead and has to get the final three outs in a playoff game at Wrigley Field.

“I’m not impressed – I thought we were getting a guy that threw 105,” winning pitcher Jason Hammel joked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It’s jaw-dropping. To see that type of velocity and command, it’s almost unfair to have a slider and offspeed pitches after that, too.”

This is what the Cubs envisioned when they decided to weather the media storms and absorb the PR hits, how Maddon could reimagine the entire bullpen and the whole team would sense the game-over feeling when the ball is in Chapman’s left hand.

“That’s a confidence-booster for us and it’s a morale kick for anybody out there,” Hammel said. “For the other side, it’s got to be black clouds: ‘Oh man, we can’t let the bullpen get in there.’”

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees directed blanket coverage of the Cubs in the weeks leading up to the Aroldis Chapman deal, looking closely at prospects throughout their farm system. Three names figured to be prominent if the Yankees decided to sell and the Cubs wanted to make a blockbuster trade: Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ.

The Yankees made Torres their headliner in that four-player return from the Cubs, getting the organization’s top prospect and a supremely talented defensive shortstop out of Venezuela. The Cubs invested $1.7 million in Torres during the summer of 2013, the signing formalized the same day as the Jake Arrieta trade with the Baltimore Orioles.

This has been years in the making for Theo Epstein’s front office, building the first-place team that drew 41,116 to Wrigley Field for Wednesday night’s 8-1 crosstown victory over the White Sox, watching Chapman throw 13 pitches in the ninth inning that hit triple digits on the huge video board, understanding that the Cubs had to sacrifice parts of their future for the now.

“That’s the right word – inevitable – just because of the timing of when we thought we were going to be good,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. “We all knew as we were doing this that there was going to come that time when you trade the player that you not only feel is an impact-type prospect, but the organization just loves the person.

“Gleyber certainly fits that. That was one of the tougher calls I’ve ever had where we’re trading a guy, just because of how much the kid meant to us personally, and just hearing him, too.

“He was – as you would expect (with) a 19-year-old – shaken up and saddened by it, just because in three short years he had dreamt of nothing but being a Cub and playing here at Wrigley. I just told him: ‘You’ll still be wearing pinstripes. They’ll just be a different (color).’”

The Cubs didn’t want to trade core guys off their major-league roster and have a middle-infield foundation with Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist. So they gave up a high-floor player from Class-A Myrtle Beach while holding onto Jimenez and Happ and seeking out more possible deals before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

“All of them would have been hard to swallow,” McLeod said. “But we know that’s part of why we try to stockpile as much talent as we can.”

The Cubs can market Happ as another polished college switch-hitter with first-round pedigree, second baseman/outfielder versatility and an early ETA (already at Double-A Tennessee during his first full season of professional baseball).

Jimenez – who got a $2.8 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic during the same signing class as Torres – enjoyed a breakout performance during the All-Star Futures Game in San Diego and almost has a .900 OPS at Class-A South Bend.

At the age of 19, with a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and a smooth right-handed swing, Jimenez reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman season at the University of San Diego, meaning the sky is the limit.

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

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Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. John Lackey (7-7, 3.79 ERA)

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