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.

Bears great Jay Hilgenberg to new C Cornelius Edison: “You deserve to be there”

Bears great Jay Hilgenberg to new C Cornelius Edison: “You deserve to be there”

The storyline has already been formed: If the Bears are forced to go with undrafted Cornelius Edison as their center, the 2016 season is lost.

“I mean, how ridiculous to think that an undrafted free agent could be the starting center for the Chicago Bears, and they win,” deadpanned Jay Hilgenberg, making less than no attempt to mask the irony in his voice.

With very good reason.

Because Hilgenberg himself came into the NFL as an afterthought, undrafted out of Iowa in 1981 and then going on to an 11-year career with the Bears, capped by a Super Bowl ring in 1985. Seven Pro Bowls, five All-Pro selections.

Ridiculous.

Edison may come nowhere near the heights reached by Hall of Fame nominee Hilgenberg. Or of Hall of Fame Miami center Jim Langer, also undrafted. But Hilgenberg has a strong bit of advice for Edison, who started Saturday in the Bears preseason game vs. Kansas City and could be their starter on Opening Day, depending on health elsewhere on the interior of the Bears offensive line.

“I would say to him, ‘You’re in an NFL camp because you can play football,’” Hilgenberg told CSNChicago.com. “Don’t let how you entered that camp take anything away from you. You deserve to be there. You just need to prove it a little bit more than the first-rounders.’”

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It may not always be easy, of course.

Hilgenberg, who fought his way onto the final roster in 1981, once famously turned to then-teammate Revie Sorey on the bench during a blowout of the Bears in Hilgenberg’s first season, and said, “Revie, we’re the worst team in the NFL.”

Sorey, never one to duck the truth, nodded.

Hilgenberg added, “And I’m the worst player on this team.”

Again, no disagreement from Sorey.

“So that makes me the worst player in the NFL, doesn’t it?” Hilgenberg concluded.

Silence from Sorey.

Hilgenberg turned out to not be the worst player in the NFL, but not without epic struggles, and he knows what Edison will be going through. And how the young center can make it.

[MORE BEARS: Rookie class making much-needed impact]

“To be honest there is always a little insecurity in you,” Hilgenberg recalled. “I had confidence that I belonged but I had to fight every day. And the truth is, I wanted it more than anything else in the world. I was going to make it.

“I didn’t have Plan B. I didn’t want to go back to Iowa then, so I didn’t have Plan B.

Hilgenberg used teams’ not drafting him as motivation, and Bears teammates recalled him savoring facing supposed elite defensive linemen, No. 1 picks, and handling them. Beyond his attitude, however, was a method.

“I played against a lot of big, strong guys in the NFL, and I wasn’t going to back down from anybody,” Hilgenberg said. “As soon as you learn how to play with the right fundamentals, you learn that there’s no Supermen out there. If you can play fundamentally and with good technique, you can block anybody… .

“Offensive line play is honestly all about how bad you want it. How much are you willing to do? How important is it to you? What does it mean to you?”

Edison is in the process of answering those exact questions.

Dwyane Wade's cousin shot and killed in Chicago

Dwyane Wade's cousin shot and killed in Chicago

On Thursday, Dwyane Wade appeared on an ESPN special for The Undefeated to talk about gun violence. The next day, Wade's cousin was shot and killed in Chicago.

Nykea Aldridge was pushing a baby stroller in the Chicago neighborhood of Parkway Gardens when she was shot and killed. Aldridge was 32 and a mother of four.

Police said she was not the intended target and one person was taken into custody as a result of the incident.

Wade's words during his appearance on the ESPN panel took on extra meaning after Friday's shooting.

"It's important for all of us to help each other, to go back and say 'You know what, where did this start, how did this start? Let's see how we can change there,'" Wade said on ESPN. "It's deep-rooted and this is something that didn't start today. This is something that's not going to end tomorrow. But this is something that we can start a conversation, we can start the work today and hopefully eventually we can stop it."

Wade tweeted after the shooting.

Kris Bryant’s MVP performance leads Cubs to comeback win at Dodger Stadium

Kris Bryant’s MVP performance leads Cubs to comeback win at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES – The “MVP! MVP! MVP!” chants started at Dodger Stadium late Friday night, Cubs fans celebrating Kris Bryant’s two-run homer in the 10th inning and cheering on this entertaining comeback win.

Until Clayton Kershaw returns to full strength, stares down hitters from 60 feet, six inches and unleashes his entire arsenal, it’s impossible to know how the Cubs would stack up against Los Angeles in October. But it’s still safe to say this would be an epic playoff matchup between two big-market, star-studded franchises, with two iconic ballparks becoming the backdrop, celebrity row after celebrity row.

As a quiet homebody who happens to have his own billboards and marketing deals – but doesn’t do bulletin-board quotes or brag about his game – Bryant is not exactly a Hollywood personality. But this is also a goal-oriented individual who doesn’t shy away from the pressure and the expectations and absolutely wants to be the best at his craft.

The Cubs won this round with Bryant, who launched his 34th and 35th home runs in a 6-4 victory, an MVP-worthy season becoming the sequel to his Rookie of the Year campaign.

“It’s humbling,” Bryant said. “You grow up hearing that kind of stuff on TV. To experience it in real life is pretty cool.”

It became hard to hear Bryant inside the visiting clubhouse, because teammates chanted “MVP!” and sung along with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre as “Nuthin But a G Thang” played on the sound system. But for most of the night, it looked like it would be a silent room postgame as the resilient Dodgers took 3-1 and 4-2 leads.

Until the eighth inning, when Bryant launched a home run off Joe Blanton that landed in the center-field seats blocked off for the batter’s eye. And then the ninth inning showed why manager Joe Maddon will want Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward in a playoff lineup.

In the middle of a frustrating offensive season where he’s felt the weight of a $184 million contract, Heyward led off by ripping a double into the right-field corner off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Heyward hustled to third base when new Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz couldn’t handle strike three against Jorge Soler. Heyward ran home to score the game-tying run when a Jansen wild pitch sailed toward the backstop.

That set the stage for Bryant, who brought up the fielding error he made in the fifth inning during his postgame interview on Channel 7 after hitting the game-winning homer off lefty Adam Liberatore. All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo may set the tone in the clubhouse, but Bryant already brings tunnel vision and a high degree of professionalism to an 82-45 team, even at the age of 24. 

“He just doesn’t quit,” Heyward said. “He wants to be in every spot. He goes up there and has his at-bat – and that’s it.

“You can talk about why he’s been hitting the ball well, this and that, but he has a good approach. It’s that simple. Other than that, he works his tail off every day to try and go out there and help us win.

“When you have that gift – and you have that work ethic – the bottom line is a lot of good things can happen.”

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A resourceful $250 million team won’t fade away, even with Kershaw (back) not pitching for two months, one of 27 players the Dodgers have stashed on the disabled list, tying a major-league record. Los Angeles has cycled through 14 different starting pitchers, relying on depth, a powerful lineup and a strong bullpen to surge into first place and hold onto a one-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.

“How about last year?” Maddon said. “We beat up on the Mets during the season, we go (into the playoffs) and we can’t even touch them. It’s such a different animal. People get hot or people get cold.

“I’m not going to diminish the fact I’m going to be paying attention. But things change. Trends can be so trendy, to quote Yogi. So I don’t get too far ahead, because things can change very quickly.”

Like Bryant going from a promising player with a few holes in his swing who looked worn down at times last season – to an MVP frontrunner with a .303 average, 89 RBI, 107 runs scored, a .982 OPS and the versatility to play third base, defensively shift across the infield and move to the outfield.

Kershaw vs. Bryant would be must-see TV in October.