Culture changed: Fire name Klopas manager

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Culture changed: Fire name Klopas manager

On Aug. 16, the Fire played to a 1-1 draw with D.C. United, setting an MLS record for most ties in a season with 15. The Men in Red were spinning their wheels in last place.

And yet, the attitude of the team remained positive. Despite the frustrating draws, despite the rough losses, the Fire never quit on the season -- and two months later, they nearly snuck into the playoffs.

That positive attitude started with Frank Klopas, who was officially named manager of the Chicago Fire Thursday afternoon at Toyota Park.

"When Frank took over, there was an immediate culture shift in so many ways," said team owner Andrew Hauptman. "The biggest way had to do with the fact that his belief in the players was real and authentic. He genuinely looked at the team that we had and believed that the results should be better."

But the results weren't better, at least in the first two months. So maybe defender Dan Gargan was a little surprised to see such an upbeat bunch of players when he was dealt from Toronto to Chicago in late July.

Like the Fire, Toronto had a roster that saw quite a bit of turnover and was near the bottom of the MLS table. But whereas Gargan described the culture in Toronto as a "cesspool," in Chicago it was completely different.

"Really, happiness," said Gargan of his first impressions of the squad. "Guys were excited to train and to be around one another.

"It was a breath of fresh air. Guys genuinely enjoyed being here."

How could players genuinely enjoy playing on a last-place team? Trust from the coaching staff is a good start, Gargan added.

"I always believed in the players," said Klopas. "I think the one thing that I did when I came in was to make sure they understood that. Having defined roles right from the beginning, then you can hold guys more accountable to do certain things -- I think it's very important that they totally understand, 100 percent when they step on the field, what their roles and responsibilities are."

Those defined roles were something the team didn't have under de los Cobos. On a team full of newcomers, that was a significant issue, one that wasn't a quick fix. It took a few months for roles to be defined and a new culture to be in place, but once those wrinkles were ironed out, the Fire took off.

"He came in with a real positive attitude and he included everyone. That's the difference between him and Carlos," Patrick Nyarko told CSNChicago in October. "He included everyone in game planning and building players' confidence, especially guys that have not played that much. He built their confidence to make them part of the team."

Make no mistake, 2011 was a transitional year for the Fire. They transitioned from de los Cobos to Klopas. They brought in numerous new players, from Dominic Oduro to Pavel Pardo to Sebastian Grazzini. They transitioned from a frustrating team to one with hope.

But the final transition for the team was the easiest. All they had to do was remove the word "interim" from Klopas' title.

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

MINNEAPOLIS -- The White Sox have no plans for Tim Anderson to take the same path as the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber.

An hour before the Cubs announced their shocking news Thursday that the World Series hero is headed to Triple-A, White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he thought Anderson’s struggles could be addressed in the majors.

Playing in his first full season, Anderson has had an up and down campaign. He leads the majors with 16 errors committed and has struggled at the plate, hitting .256/.284/.374 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in 265 plate appearances. The roller coaster ride has led to some aggravation for Anderson, who slammed his batting helmet in frustration during Wednesday’s loss. Anderson said the helmet slam was the topic of a postgame conversation he had with Renteria on Wednesday.

“I feel like this year has been the toughest year I’ve dealt with since I’ve started playing baseball,” Anderson said. “I have to keep playing, lock in and control it.

“(Slamming the helmet) doesn’t make you feel better. It’s just a little frustration. You get mad at times, but you just try to control it and keep playing.”

Anderson, who turns 24 on Friday, has had a lot to manage in 2017.

It’s his first full season in the majors. He signed a contract extension in March. Since May he’s been dealing with the loss of his close friend, who was shot to death. Throw in the on-field struggles and Renteria realizes there’s a lot with which Anderson had to deal.

“You just make the sure the perspective they’re having at any particular moment is the correct perspective,” Renteria said. “You try to make sure that the underlying frustrations he might be having, that he’s able to separate it.

“You have ups and down, they’re not always going to be in the best place mentally at times. But for the most part you address it, you talk about it because you understand it, you’ve lived all those things and you just try to give him a little insight and keep it going in the right direction.”

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Anderson made a pair of miscues in a costly third-inning Twins rally on Wednesday night.

But Renteria expressed his confidence in the second-year player, calling him one of the premier shortstops in the league.

The White Sox manager has seen Anderson make the necessary corrections after infield work with bench coach Joe McEwing. The effort and preparation have been there. Renteria just wants to make sure his player can compartmentalize and stay focused. He realizes there’s going to be mistakes from time to time and wants to make sure Anderson is handling them well.

“To say he’s not going to continue to make mistakes every now and then, yeah that’s going to happen,” Renteria said. “It’s there for everybody to see. That’s why everybody takes notice and that’s natural. I think the one thing we have to do as a staff and players also is step back and stay away from the fray of that attention and stay focused on what you have to do. Minimize how all the noise affects you and continue to play the game.”

Renteria remembers his own struggles as a young player and knows how much more scrutiny Anderson faces. Every game is televised and highlights are streamed on the internet. Any little gaffe can be magnified. Anderson admits that at times he’s dealt with frustration he’s never before experienced and it’s caught up to him. Now he just needs to learn how to cope with the stress a little better.

“Nobody wants to go through tough times and struggle,” Anderson said. “Slamming helmets is not the right way to go about it because you could get injured, so try to handle it in a better way.

“It’s been tough times and a lot of frustration, but I try not to let it get to me, but sometimes it does. I try to balance it out and keep going.

“I’m just trying to manage it, balance it out and separate it from each other.”

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule: