Fire to Battle Earthquakes in Home Opener


Fire to Battle Earthquakes in Home Opener

Saturday, April 10, 201010:54 AM


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.

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins


Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

PITTSBURGH – There are certain trends through which the Blackhawks tend to go sometimes. They can be so-so against teams on the bubble or out of the postseason. But face a playoff-bound team and the Blackhawks usually come with a top-notch game.

Exhibit A on that came on Wednesday.

Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane each had two-point nights, and Marian Hossa scored his 25th of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Penguins 5-1 on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks snapped a three-game winless streak and now have a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild in the West.

Corey Crawford stopped 31 of 32 shots. Richard Panik scored his 22nd goal of the season. Bryan Rust had the Penguins' lone goal at 5:46 of the third.

The Penguins, much like the Blackhawks, entered this one with 103 points. The Penguins were without several injured players, including Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Trevor Daley. Still, it's the Penguins, and you can never take them lightly.

[Buy Blackhawks tickets right here]

The Blackhawks got the early lead, then really pounced in the final five-plus minutes of the first period. The Blackhawks got stellar set-up passes from Patrick Kane, Ryan Hartman and Nick Schmaltz and finishes to accompany them. Two of their goals (Marcus Kruger and Hossa) came in the final minute of the first period for that 4-0 lead.

The Penguins had the first six shots of the third but the Blackhawks would score on their first of the period when Tanner Kero, taking the turnover from Justin Schultz, finished on a breakaway.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

As far as first impressions go, Bastian Schweinsteiger made a good one on Wednesday.

The Chicago Fire's new German star smiled at every opportunity, said all the right things about playing hard and wanting to fit in with his new team and even elegantly danced around some 'tricky' questions.

Schweinsteiger opened by thanking fans for showing up to greet him at O'Hare on Tuesday and later said he has plenty left to give on the field.

"I'm 32 years old, I'm ready," Schweinsteiger said. "Of course I need more training sessions to have the right rhythm where I want to see myself. I want to use every minute to feel how it is, how the teammates are playing, which kind of runs they make, which kind of rhythm they have. So to know each other better, that is very important for me step-by-step and I hope you will get results soon because I don't like to lose or to draw."

The German's addition is a big deal to the Fire because he is a big name player who is drawing more attention to the team. That means the Fire will have to win more to capitalize and show the team is deserving of the extra attention.

Despite that extra attention, words of adoration from general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic saying he "can be the icon of the MLS in the future," Schweinsteiger said he is ready for the attention, but does not want to stand apart from his teammates.

"I had a lot of pressure in my career," Schweinsteiger said. "When you play a World Cup final or a Champions League final and the third time you have to win against Borussia Dortmund there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders so I can handle that. I don't want to say I'm a key player of Chicago Fire. Every player on the pitch has to be a key player and has to take the responsibility on the pitch and I would like just to get comfortable with myself and into the team so much as I can."

Talking about the importance of winning and showing humility? Check.

[Watch or listen to Bastian Schweinsteiger's full press conference here]

As for some of those 'tricky' questions, he was able to stay clean there as well. Will you root for the Cubs or Sox?

"First of all I like the Fire the most, of course," Schweinsteiger said.

Well played, Bastian.

But what about this one: Is the World Cup a realistic expectation for the Fire?

Sorry, what was that? Schweinsteiger smiled politely, said he didn't understand the question and avoided getting egg on his face while the Internet exploded in laughter that he was asked about the chances a club team winning an international competition.

Schweinsteiger is the new face of the Fire and that face smiled, waved and shook hands on Wednesday amid all the pageantry.

Media savvy? Check.

As for how he will perform on the field, that's to come soon. Paunovic only gave a subtle hint as to whether Schweinsteiger will play in Saturday's home match against Montreal.

"Obviously he is going to be available," Paunovic said. "We are not going to reveal our plans here, but we still have a talk to have and discuss how he feels and more things about the team and how we want to play. Be ready, just be ready. We'll see."