Fire to Battle Earthquakes in Home Opener

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Fire to Battle Earthquakes in Home Opener

Saturday, April 10, 201010:54 AM

By ALAN FERGUSON, STATS Writer

After earning one point in their first two games, the Chicago Fire hope that playing in front of their home fans for the first time will spark them to a victory.

They couldnt pick a much better opponent to face in their Toyota Park debut than the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Fire will try to add to their home success over the Earthquakes and give coach Carlos de los Cobos his first MLS win Saturday night.

Chicago (0-1-1) dropped its season opener 1-0 in New York on March 27 and needed Brian McBrides penalty kick to salvage a 2-2 draw in Colorado last Saturday.

Patrick Nyarko drew the key infraction in the 51st minute on Rapids defender Marvell Wynne, and McBride scored on the ensuing kick. Collins John, McBrides former teammate in the English Premier League, also scored in his second MLS match.

The Rapids are a very good team, and it is very difficult to win here, de los Cobos told the leagues official Web site. Im satisfied with the work of the players. Im only happy when we win, but Im satisfied.

If history is an indication, the Chicago coach could be happy following Saturdays game. The Fire are 7-1-4 all-time at home against San Jose, with the only loss coming in a shootout July 23, 1999, when the Earthquakes were known as the Clash.

Chicago has also never lost its opener at Toyota Park, going 3-0-1.

The Fire earned a 2-0 win there last season over San Jose and a 3-3 draw on the road as part of their 5-0-6 start. The Earthquakes are 0-2-2 against Chicago since the franchises resurrection in 2008, but that doesnt mean the Fire will take them lightly.

I always think San Jose is a dangerous team, defender C.J. Brown told the leagues Web site. If you sleep on them, theyll crush you. So for us, weve got to stay compact, and when we get our chances, weve got to bury them.

After finishing last in the Western Conference in each of the last two seasons, the Earthquakes didnt get 2010 off to a strong start with a 3-0 home loss to Real Salt Lake on March 27.

Three days later, they signed former Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch. In a stunning move, Chicago waived the 33-year-old Busch on March 22 so it could start 24-year-old Andrew Dykstra, who had never played an MLS game.

Busch, the leagues 2008 goalkeeper of the year, had 21 shutouts in 63 games and played every minute the previous two seasons. As the backup to Joe Cannon, hes expected to watch Saturdays match.

The addition of Jon gives us one of the best goalkeeping corps in the league, general manager John Doyle told the leagues Web site.

The Fire could see their latest acquisition on the field after signing Salvadoran defender Deris Umanzor on Thursday.

Blackhawks: Tommy Wingels fractures foot, will be ready for training camp

Blackhawks: Tommy Wingels fractures foot, will be ready for training camp

Tommy Wingels, who the Blackhawks acquired earlier this month, will miss 6-8 weeks after suffering a left-foot fracture during his offseason training. Team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement that the Blackhawks, “anticipate a full recovery in 6-8 weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”

The Blackhawks signed Wingels, a Wilmette native, to a one-year deal on July 1. Wingels will still be at this weekend’s convention.

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

Bears training camp preview: Three burning questions for the offensive line

With training camp starting next week, CSN Chicago’s Chris Boden and JJ Stankevitz are looking at three burning questions for each of the Bears’ position groups heading into Bourbonnais. Friday's unit: the offensive line. 

1. Will Kyle Long and Josh Sitton flip spots, and will it be effective?

One of the more intriguing storylines to come out of the Bears’ offseason program was the possibility of a Kyle Long-Josh Sitton guard swap, with Long moving from right to left and Sitton to left to right. The prevailing wisdom is that Long’s athleticism would be better suited for the pulls needed at left guard, while Sitton has made Pro Bowls at both positions. But is it prudent for the Bears to make this switch with Long still recovering from November ankle surgery and some nasty complications that came after it? He’s shown he’s skilled enough to already make one position switch on the offensive line (from right tackle to right guard), so there’s no reason to doubt he couldn’t handle another so long as he’s healthy. We’ll see where he is next week. 

“You want flexibility,” coach John Fox said. “You don’t want as much flexibility as we had to use a year ago because we had to play so many guys due to injury. But we’re messing around with (Sitton) and Kyle both playing opposite sides, whether one’s on the left, one’s on the right. We’ll get those looks in camp, we got plenty of time.”

2. Can Charles Leno Jr. capitalize on a contract year?

Leno has been a pleasant surprise given the low expectations usually set for seventh-round picks. He started every game in 2016, checking off an important box for John Fox — reliability. Whether Leno can be more than a reliable player at left tackle, though, remains to be seen (if the Bears thought he were, wouldn’t they have signed him to an extension by now?). He has one more training camp and 16 games to prove he’s worthy of a deal to be the Bears (or someone else’s) left tackle of the future. Otherwise, the Bears may look to a 2018 draft class rich in tackles led by Texas’ Connor Williams and Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey. 

“I know if I take care of my business out here, everything else will take care of itself,” Leno said. 

3. Will Hroniss Grasu survive the roster crunch?

A year ago, Grasu was coming off a promising rookie season and was in line to be the Bears’ starting center. But the Oregon product tore his ACL in August, and Cody Whitehair thrived after a last-minute move from guard to center. If the Bears keep eight offensive lineman this year, Grasu could be squeezed out: Leno, Long, Whitehair, Sitton and Bobby Massie are the likely starters, with Eric Kush and Tom Compton filling reserve roles. That leaves one spot, either for fifth-round guard Jordan Morgan or Grasu. The Bears could try to stash Morgan, who played his college ball at Division-II Kutztown, on the practice squad and keep Grasu. But Grasu doesn’t have flexibility to play another position besides center, which could hurt his case.