Catching up with former Fire striker Chad Barrett

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Catching up with former Fire striker Chad Barrett

Saturday, April 16, 2011Posted: 5:00 PM

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com

When the MLS schedules are released, few, save for the supporters of Sporting Kansas City, circle the matches against the Chicago Fire. But every team knows when the Los Angeles Galaxy come to town.

David Beckham and Landon Donovan are Major League Soccers stars, filling stadiums all across North America. Like the Pele and Beckenbauer-led New York Cosmos of the NASL, the Galaxy are the driving force of the league nearly as large as the league itself.

After adding strikers Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett in the offseason, the Galaxy are again favorites to win the MLS Cup in November.

In the meantime, the Galaxy is still trying to gel as a team. Injuries and suspensions will affect head coach Bruce Arenas lineup on Sunday. The Galaxy traveled to Chicago without Landon Donovan (knee injury), David Beckham (suspension yellow cards) and Juninho (suspension red card).

Barrett, who scored 17 goals in 82 appearances with the Fire between 2005 and 2008, did travel with the team, and talked about his new squad, the Fire and MLS referees at the Galaxys pre-game media day in the ritzy Sax Hotel. Thanks Beckham.

Q: Back in Chicago, new team, hows it been thus far for you?A: Its been good, you know. Its been kind of a learning experience, learning how to gel with all of my new teammates, on and off the field. Theres a lot of good players here; theres a much higher caliber. Competing for jobs is much tougher. Ive accepted that. Its not easy to get a starting spot, keep a starting spot on this team, so it makes you work everyday that much harder.
Q:Its a little different being in a place like this a hotel lounge that appears to have been designed by a 17th century French king and having a pre-game media day, as opposed to Toronto and even Chicago.A: This doesnt hold a candle to what it would be like if Landon and Beckham were here...You have stars on this team, the faces of the league people want to hear about what they have to say, how they prepare for games is how they have been doing it in the highest leagues in the world.

Its important for them to see day in and day out, what we do, so they dont think its all glitz and glamour out there on the field. We stay in, like you said, these nice places to stay in, but rest is just as important as game times are. Coming here and getting proper rest, proper relaxation that you need, especially when you are playing three games in 10 games, all on the road. Its very tough.
Q: You guys come into the season, and its almost an expectation to win MLS Cup. That has to be a bit different in its own regard. A: You mentioned MLS Cup, and at the beginning of the season, we do set long term goals, but this team is really good that we feel we can go pretty much anywhere and take three points away. Thats been a difference than other teams I have been on in the past, where youre hoping to win your games at home, tie the games on the road, and maybe get a couple wins in there. But this team has a firm belief that when we go to these places, we should be able to take three points out.

I feel the past two places we went, DC and Toronto, I think we got robbed in DC and then in Toronto, we had the chances to put that game away too, but we didnt take advantage. Weve been playing very well defensively...we have good depth on this team. Especially on this road trip, with the injuries and red card issues that weve come up with, people have done a very good job to step up.

The final goal is MLS Cup. Theres an expectations, but theyre expecting us to win every game every weekend, and thats an expectation that Im OK with.

Q:Back-to-back games in cities that youve played in. Thats just a weird scheduling quirk, isnt it?A: Im kind of getting everything: I saw my family in DC, went home to Toronto and back to my first home, here in Chicago. Seeing a lot of people, lot of friends... counting all my cards this one trip.

I got the start in Toronto, and everything you try to do is try keep your spot on this team. I dont know what Bruce has in plan for us on Sunday, but Im sure whatever he puts out is going to get it done.
Q:No one really knew what to expect from this Fire team going into the year. Theyre at the bottom of the table now, but theyve played fairly well. Whats the game plan?A: Theyre not as bad of a team as is represented in the standings. Theyre a team that can attack fast. It seems like they were down and out of the game last night, down 3-0. They had a nice little comeback, got it to 3-2. I thought they could have pushed for another goal, but Portland did well to get another one.

Theyve got a lot of new players...good leaders, in Logan Pause. Theyre a fairly young team. I think its a good thing to play this team early in the year, to capitalize on the disarray in the mindset that they have.

I dont think any team has the advantage when it comes to the rest aspect of it. I think were both going to be playing with some tired legs out there. Thats where the thinking aspect is going to take over in the game...I think theres some holes in their team that they can exploit, and I think that we can get three points.Q:LA Galaxy is one of the deepest teams in the league. Is Sunday an opportunity to go out there and show that this isnt two guys and a couple of new players?A: We have a lot of faces. We have Juan Pablo, Beckham, Donovan, three of the most heralded players in MLS. Its very easy to get cast in the shadows in that, in the public. But on the field, you toss all fame and fortune is aside and we all play our hearts out for each other.

The veterans do a great job, no matter how big or small they might be...We keep a very tight locker room. Thats what needs to happen to be successful. Thats how it was when I first came to Chicago. We had Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, C.J. Brown we had a bunch of older guys who led by example and by voice.

Q:The big topic of conversation, and its been coming out of your camp, is cards and refereeing. Has it reached a level of overall frustration with your squad? It seems like youve been the most vocal about it. A: The league came to us before the season and they said that they would have to bring in some new refs because of more games. Its kind of like youre playing against two oppositions. It feels like were playing against the other team and were playing against the refs. Its not just us its every game Ive watched. It seems like there has been a red card in at least every game. I havent looked at the stats, but I would imagine that the red cards and the cards in general are up almost two-fold.

It kind of feels like theyre taking too much control over the game. They dont need to protect us that much. Were not fragile, were not pieces of glass we can take a hit.

It sucks though. Its just not part of the game you want to see, a referee becoming the star of the game, taking away points from you, that you earned, like what happened in DC. Whether they decide to change the way they think, or whatever its not up to us.

The Fire will host Barrett and the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday at 3 p.m. at Toyota Park.

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

View from the Moon: Bears make statement in taking tight end while passing on defensive backs

With their second pick in the 2017 draft, the Bears addressed offense and did it in a way that, when coupled with one of their main offseason moves, makes for some very interesting what-ifs for the upcoming season.

The choice at No. 45 was tight end Adam Shaheen, who at 6-foot-6 and 278 pounds becomes the second significant addition at the position following the signing of Dion Sims (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) to a three-year deal. In a sometimes over-specialized NFL, the Bears have brought in not one but two every-down tight ends.

“Yeah, that’s accurate,” general manager Ryan Pace said. “So it opens up a lot of possibilities for our offense.”

The acquisitions of Shaheen and Sims hold some intrigue, if only because of sheer bulk, because the inescapable conclusion with the commitments to big tight ends is that the Bears might be serious about running the football. They ran 28.4 percent of their 2016 plays in personnel packages of two or three tight ends or with a tight end and fullback.

Under coordinator Dowell Loggains the Bears ran the football just 39.3 percent of the time in 2016. Head coach John Fox and Loggains cite the Bears’ frequent need to play catch-up as the reason why, though in 12 of the 16 games the Bears were tied, led or were within seven points at halftime. In fairness to Fox and Loggains, the Bears in fact arguably did not have the physical firepower at tight end to sustain a smash-mouth base of operations.

That said, both Shaheen and Sims also have a fully formed receiver side to their games, which is where the bigger-picture interest lies. Shaheen had 122 receptions over his last two seasons at Ashland. Sims caught 36, 25 and 35 passes in his final three years with the Miami Dolphins. Both Shaheen and Sims were high school basketball standouts; Shaheen played a year of basketball at the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown, while Sims was dual-recruited for football and basketball at Michigan State after finishing fourth in voting for Mr. Basketball in Michigan in 2009.

“I definitely think (the basketball stuff) helps,” Pace said. “Half the time, it’s like these tight ends are going up for a rebound and boxing out. And (Shaheen) definitely has it. When we talk about body control and catching radius, the ball is not always going to be on target. And Adam has the ability to do that. We confirmed that through the tape, and Frank (Smith, tight ends coach) was able to confirm it during the workout.”

Why not take a defensive back?

During the NFL owners meetings this spring, Pace said that the draft's depth of talented options was a factor in free-agency decisions as well as the draft. So his willingness to trade down in the second round of this draft was expected, given that it has been rated as one of the best-ever drafts for quality and depth at defensive back.

Of course, these were the same experts’ analyses that concluded that no quarterback would be drafted before the middle of the first round, when in reality three went in the first 12 picks after teams traded up, so ... oh, never mind.

The NFL collective seems to agree with the take on defensive backs: Of the 107 players selected through three completed rounds, 29 (27.1 percent) have been defensive backs (18 cornerbacks and 11 safeties). Meaning more than one-fourth of the 2017 draft picks have been defensive backs.

What wasn’t expected was Pace then making no move at either cornerback or safety even after the trade-down that recovered much of the draft capital expended to deal up to No. 2 for Mitch Trubisky. When the Bears’ pick at No. 45 came around, the Bears instead chose a smaller-college tight end.

First thoughts were that Pace agreed with thinking that said starter-grade corners in particular could be had as late as the fourth round — he reacquired a fourth-round pick in the trade with Arizona, giving him two (Nos. 117 and 119) — or that he had been outflanked by a sudden minor run on defensive backs. In the eight picks from No. 36 (the Bears’ original second-round slot) to No. 43, four defensive backs were snatched up, three of them safeties.

That clearly didn’t bother Pace, though the Bears ended Friday with a plan to take a revised look in the defensive back direction.

“Yeah, we’re going to have to kind of sort through it tonight and we’ll be here late tonight and early in the morning,” Pace said. “Kind of resetting our board and going through it again. We’re going to take best player available, and if it ends up being offensive players, that’s what it is.”

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

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USA TODAY

After fighting through unspeakable adversity, Celtics 'enjoying the moment' with new perspective

Championship moments rarely occur in the first round. With a playoff format that drags the postseason out for more than two months, with playoff series taking as long as two weeks, the second season feels like just that. It’s far too early to say what exactly Friday night in Chicago will mean for the top-seeded Celtics, but a sense of a team coming together under unfathomable circumstances may prove to be the turning point in a season that a week ago appeared hanging by a thread.

It happened in three parts.

On the floor the Celtics looked every bit the part of a 51-win team that edged out LeBron’s Cavs for the top spot in the East. Brad Stevens’ small-ball approach came full-circle as the Boston guards lived in the paint against the Bulls, kicking out to open shooters for 16 3-pointers that helped the Celtics put away the game (and series) midway through the third quarter.

Avery Bradley starred for a second consecutive night, tallying 23 points while making Jimmy Butler work for his, while eight different Celtics hit a 3-pointer and the team shot 49 percent. For the first time in the series the Celtics looked dominant, like a team poised to contend with the Cavaliers for supremacy in the East.

“It felt good to play Celtic basketball again,” Avery Bradley said. “We were all smiling, having fun, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s how hard we worked this entire year, to play that type of basketball.”

Isaiah Thomas was naturally somber much of the series. The well-documented death of his 22-year-old sister put a damper on the series before it began, and the MVP candidate understandably chose not to address it on the few occassions he spoke with the media. But Thomas looked more like himself as the series went on. Not only did his numbers improve, he appeared more vocal after made baskets, laughed off trash talk from Bulls point guard Isaiah Canaan, and engineered the Celtics' offense to near-perfection.

His defining moment came late in the third quarter with the Celtics nearing a 30-point lead. After a hard foul he gathered his four teammates in a huddle near the baseline and shouted that the series for the Bulls was "a wrap for these m------------!" This was the same player who two weeks earlier was brought to tears prior to Game 1, and who will bury his sister on Saturday in Tacoma, Washington. Under unthinkable circumstances, Thomas averaged 23.0 points and 5.7 assists in 34.8 minutes in the series.

“I feel like he has grown,” Al Horford said. "And we all have in a way with all the adversity that has gone on. It could have easily gone the other way, but I feel like especially tonight when we got the game in hand, in control, we all just kept on repeating to stay focused to keep it going, keep pushing. We didn’t want to give them any life and we were a focused group and we were enjoying the moment.”

Thomas' journey won't get easier. He'll have another short turnaround to get ready for Sunday's second-round matchup against the Celtics. But like his teammates did in Games 3 and 4, when Thomas flew by himself to Chicago following his return home to Tacoma to mourn with his family, they'll have another opporuntity to grow closer. Brad Stevens kept an incredible perspective on the situation throughout the series, and applauded his team for doing the same while still fighting for wins.

"Bigger things than basketball happened, and that took precedent and it takes precdedent," he said. "I was really proud of our guys for how they treated each other, how they stood together, stuck together. And how nobody pointed fingers, they were just a great support for one another, especially Isaiah."

When Thomas does return, and when the Celtics gear up for their next postseason journey, expectations will have remained the same. Though the Wizards were one of the league's best teams in the second half, and with John Wall and Bradley Beal playing on another level, it'll take more performances like Friday night - both on the court and collectively staying together - for Boston to advance. A 2-0 hole against the Wizards will feel a whole lot different than it did against the Bulls.

That sort of letdown doesn't feel like it will happen again. Though no one would have wished such tragedy to force it, the Celtics came together at a critical moment and came out better for it. Their work isn't done, and they know it. But the way they were able to handle the adversity in Round 1, anything seems possible for Stevens, Thomas the top seed in the East.

"We just try to stay the course in the day-to-day. And if that results in us winning more games or winning in the playoffs, or whatever the case may be, there’s only one goal in the Boston," Stevens said. "Seventeen (NBA championship) banners above us. We don’t have a choice. We only shoot for one thing there."