Fire lock up Nyarko

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Fire lock up Nyarko

The Fire, in keeping with the general policies of Major League Soccer, gave little in the way of details when it comes to players contracts. Theres no missing the significance of Thursdays re-signing of forward Patrick Nyarko, however.

Nyarko, 26, has become a Fire mainstay and the club was determined to keep him. Nyarko said the new contract covered two seasons with an option for a third.

"Hopefully itll be for a lot more than that, said Nyarko. "Its a good deal, and I like the organization. There wasnt any doubt that we would come to an agreement. It was a question of when."

"Keeping Patrick with the Fire was a big goal of ours over the last year," said head coach Frank Klopas. "With his speed and ability to change pace, hes show to be one of the most threatening attackers in MLS over the last few years and is key to our attack."

Nyarko hasnt been much of a goal-scorer in his four-plus seasons in MLS. He had four of his seven in the 2009 season, but was a much more productive player in the two seasons after that. In 2010 and 2011 he combined for a team-leading 19 assists.

Hell play in his 100th MLS match in the Fires next game, April 15 vs. Houston at Toyota Park. Over the last four seasons hes played in 90 matches, more than any other Fire player.

"I just want to help this team get back to its winning tradition," said Nyarko. "The last couple years we got away from that a little bit. Now my immediate goal is to help us get into the playoffs."

Drafted as a forward, Nyarko was a first-round pick (seventh overall) in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft after getting 31 goals and 24 assists in 57 college games for Virginia Tech. In his early years with the Fire, though, he spent most of his playing time as a winger on both sides of the field.

That changed midway through last season when Klopas paired him with striker Dominic Oduro. Both players are from Ghana, and they had instant chemistry. Their productivity spurred the Fire to a 7-2-1 finish in the last 10 games of last season, which in turn created high expectations for this campaign.

"I had talked to him only four times before he came here," said Nyarko. "I had heard of him, but we really starting talking once I came into the league. As hard-working as he is, that helped us."

Nyarkos performance down the stretch with the Fire led to his getting his first callup to Ghanas national team, and he played 45 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Chile in a Feb. 29 friendly in Chester, Pa. He hopes thats not the end to his time with his national team.

"That call was a little unexpected, but it worked out," he said. "It was a good experience, and Im hoping for more callups but that team is getting a new coach. The old one was fired, and well have to wait until a new coach settles in."

Be sure to check out highlights of Patrick Nyarko over at the official website of the Fire.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle describes the 'amazing feeling' of having jersey number retired by White Sox

Mark Buehrle might need time to process everything that took place Saturday afternoon when he was surrounded by friends, family, teammates and fans, showered with gifts and overwhelmed by emotion.

The White Sox officially retired the number of one of the most popular players in team history in front of 38,618 at Guaranteed Rate Field. A banner covering Buehrle’s No. 56 was unfurled during an afternoon ceremony that makes the left-hander one of 11 players in club history whose number has been retired. Surrounded by fellow honoree Frank Thomas among many others, the always humble Buehrle -- who won 161 games in 12 seasons with the White Sox -- said afterward he’s not sure he belongs in the club.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Buehrle said. “It’s going to take time. I don’t know if it’s ever going to sink in and realize there it is.

“Amazing feeling. Can’t really put it into words how you feel. I wasn’t actually as nervous as I thought I would be once I was up there. But obviously glad it’s over with and it’s a special day.”

Buehrle’s list of dignitaries included Thomas, managers Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Manuel, Cliff Polite, Scott Podsednik, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, Jon Garland, John Danks and hitting coach Greg Walker.

White Sox play by play man Hawk Harrelson emceed a ceremony that lasted 30 minutes. Included were speeches by Thomas and White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper as well as an unveiling of a series of gifts. The team presented Buehrle with a new truck, a baseball collage put together by Ron Kittle, a four-seat All-Terrain Vehicle -- much to the enjoyment of his duck hunting club seated on the 400 level -- as well as the flip-through-the-legs ball from Opening Day 2010. Club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf also spoke during the ceremony, dropping in a series of one-liners.

“I’ve never seen him upset,” Guillen said. “I’ve never seen him overreact. Day in and day out he was the same guy. That’s what makes him so special. His teammates loved him.

“Buehrle did something: outsmart people. People don’t have stuff like him they think I’m smart, I can do this and fake it. Buehrle just grabbed the ball and threw it.

“To survive for so many years and have your number retired, there’s not that many people up there.

“It’s amazing with the stuff he had. I’ve seen a lot of better pitchers with better stuff. You don’t see too many guys with the same heart.”

Buehrle said Friday that he anticipated he’d be an emotional wreck for the event. The man beloved by the public isn’t much for public speaking. Throw in all of his friends and family present and Buehrle just hoped to get through his own speech. He said the sight of seeing his number unfurled almost put him over the edge.

“Emotions and trying to breathe deep and don’t start crying, tearing up,” Buehrle said. “I was trying to hold my emotions together. But just looking up there and seeing that. I can’t put it into words.”

When it was his turn to say the words, Buehrle spoke the way he pitched: tidy and efficient. Wearing a suit and sunglasses in case he teared up, Buehrle spoke with his wife and children at his side. Aside from his family, Buehrle said he avoided naming names during the 4-minute, 19-second speech because he had too many people to thank for the journey from 38th round draft pick to all-time great.

Buehrle said he wouldn’t be able to pick out his favorite part until he watches the ceremony again later.

“When I watch it back in a couple hours and realize what happened and what really went on,” Buehrle said. “It’s kind of hard to hear out there, but it’s just everything. I had Frank Thomas and Jim Thome behind me. They’re here for my day. It doesn’t make sense to me.”