Busy week for Fire begins in Portland

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Busy week for Fire begins in Portland

The Fire is well-rested now after coming through its first busy stretch of games in great shape, getting seven of a possible nine points in a three-games-in-nine-nights stretch.

That run of Major League Soccer matches ended with a 2-1 home win over Sporting Kansas City last Saturday, and this Sunday the next busy stretch begins. Though the upcoming opponents havent played as well so far in the season, it could be a rougher challenge for the Fire.

The Fire just completed a successful run that included a win at Chivas USA before getting four points in two home matches against conference leaders, Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC.

The upcoming stretch is shorter - three games in seven nights - and it includes more travel. Sundays match is at Portland (2-5-3), then the Fire hosts FC Dallas (3-6-3) on Wednesday and finishes up at Columbus (3-4-2) on May 26.

In Sundays match the Fire (4-2-3) will catch a Timbers team that played the Houston Dynamo to a scoreless draw Tuesday on the road. Portland has had a slow start in its second MLS season but has played acceptably at JELD-WEN Field (2-2-1), and the Fire has never played a good match against the Timbers.

Last season the Timbers were an expansion team that feasted on the Fire. They won their first-ever league match with a rousing 4-2 victory at JELD-WEN Field on April 14 and then earned their first-ever road win with a 1-0 victory at Toyota Park on July 16.

The Fire wont be at full strength for the upcoming run of matches. Arne Friedrich, the veteran German defender, was diagnosed with a Grade 2 right-hamstring strain and is expected to be sidelined 3-4 weeks. He suffered the injury 29 minutes into the Sporting Kansas City match. Dan Gargan, himself nursing a sore ankle, was pressed into service at his right back spot and Jalil Anibaba moved from the right side to the center, opposite rookie Austin Berry.

"We lost momentum when Arne came out of the game," admitted coach Frank Klopas. "It took us some time to adjust."

The Fire adjusted, but not after promptly giving up the games first goal, and later benefitted from a red card against SKC before getting the win.

"We got a little fortunate with the red card," said forward Patrick Nyarko, who assisted on Dominic Oduros game-winning goal. "That lifted our confidence. When we played Seattle (a 2-0 home loss) and Real Salt Lake (a draw) teams I think are among the top five in the league we didnt beat those teams. So, this one (vs. SKC) was crucial to our confidence."

This match has some historical significance for the Fire, with midfielder Marco Pappa scheduled to become the 15th player to play in 100 games for the franchise. Hes also tied for fifth in Fire history with his 22 goals. The No. 2 man in that department, Chris Rolfe, is still healing from a sprained left ankle suffered in his third day of training after re-joining the Fire following a three-year stint in Denmark.

Rolfe had 38 goals for the Fire from 2005-09, which is topped only by Ante Razovs 76 from 1998-2004. Rolfe finally resumed running at this weeks training sessions, but the club lists him as questionable for Saturday and hes unlikely to even make the trip.

No Bears move yet on CB Deiondre' Hall except maybe to safety

No Bears move yet on CB Deiondre' Hall except maybe to safety

PHOENIX – If the Bears intend to cut ties with Deiondre' Hall after the first-year cornerback become involved in an ugly police incident last weekend, they have not indicated their decision yet. They have, however, begun looking at a possible position change for Hall as they gather information on events of last Saturday night.

Hall was tasered by police in Cedar Falls, Ia., after he and a former Northern Iowa University teammate were allegedly involved in a fight at a bar. Hall was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct, public intoxication and interference. Hall allegedly spit in the officers' faces, according to an affidavit, police saying that an officer used a Taser on Hall's legs in order to get him into a squad car.

GM Ryan Pace confirmed that the team is still gathering information and said, "it's just [that] the circumstances are a little disappointing, to be honest with you. We're aware of it, it's just kind of gathering more facts as we go forward."

Pace has spoken to Hall and said that the team wanted to investigate thoroughly, "but the circumstances surrounding it are obviously disappointing."

In the meantime, the 2016 fourth-round draft choice is slated to be tried at safety when the team convenes for the start of offseason work. Hall played the position in college, and has traits that the Bears value at the safety position.

"One of Deiondre's best traits is his ball skills, his ball clock, the ability to time the pass breakup," Pace said. "He's very natural at playing safety and that's one of the reasons we drafted him, because he has the versatility to do both. That's something we're going to talk about this offseason and he could start taking some reps there in the offseason program."

Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who missed all of last season following arthroscopic knee surgery in mid-August, will stay at cornerback.

Is Addison Russell still on track for Opening Night?

Is Addison Russell still on track for Opening Night?

MESA, Ariz. – Addison Russell believes he will be ready for Opening Night. Right now, Cubs manager Joe Maddon says his All-Star shortstop starting the season on the disabled list is an option that "I'm not considering."

But Russell hasn't played in a Cactus League game since March 22 and the Cubs have only three exhibitions left before facing the St. Louis Cardinals on national TV. The new 10-day disabled list would also allow the Cubs to backdate Russell's injury (stiff back) to March 30 and create a degree of roster flexibility. 

"We're trying to start the season out on a good note and definitely in St. Louis," Russell said Tuesday. "That's kind of the goal, but if the back doesn't feel well until then, maybe that's something that we'll have to do. With the way that I'm feeling, I don't think that's necessary."

The Cubs did get Ben Zobrist (stiff neck) back into the lineup that afternoon against the San Francisco Giants at Sloan Park. Russell estimated he's around "95 percent" and hoped to play Wednesday before the Cubs leave Arizona and fly out for two exhibition games against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.      

"We're not trying to take it too quick," Russell said. "Missing a few games here in the spring is a lot better than a few games in the season. I've talked to Joe and there's no hurry back."

Five days out from what should be an electric atmosphere at Busch Stadium, Maddon said athletic trainer PJ Mainville didn't sound concerned about Russell's back issue.

"PJ felt very strongly that he's going to be fine over the next couple days," Maddon said. "From Addison's perspective, knowing baseball players who've been doing so well, you take a couple days off, you're concerned that you're going to lose it. 

"I'm certain he's going to be fine. Actually, I'm OK with him getting some rest right now. The biggest thing is: Medically, is he going to be fine? Everybody thinks that he is, so I'm not concerned."