Chicago Bears

Fire look to get back to winning ways

816414.png

Fire look to get back to winning ways

Fire coach Frank Klopas had just one basic reaction to his teams poor showing before its first sellout home crowd of the season last week: forget about it.

Thats undoubtedly good advice. The 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy wasnt indicative of the Fires play of late. Prior to the shaky showing the Fire (8-6-4) had a four-game unbeaten streak.

"Our movement and being dynamic and being off the ball wasnt as sharp, Klopas said of the dropoff in his teams performance." You have to move on, and there will be setbacks. Its how we react to them. Youre going to have games like that throughout the season.

An immediate recovery is possible on Saturday when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to Toyota Park. The Whitecaps should be travel-weary; they played their fifth straight road match on Wednesday, losing 3-2 to lowly Toronto FC. That was the third meeting of the season for the Canadian rivals, but the first in Major League Soccer play. They met for the Canadian Championship in a two-game aggregate goal playoff, Toronto FC winning that title in the same matchup for the second straight year.

Still, Vancouver (8-5-6) could be the most improved team in Major League Soccer. As an expansion team in 2011 the Whitecaps finished 6-18-10 and were last in the Western Conference. The Fire, though, couldnt beat Vancouver last season, going 0-1-1. Saturday marks the only meeting of the clubs this regular season.

Therell be a Chicago flavor to the visitors. Vancouver general manager Tom Soehn developed his soccer roots in the Chicago Kickers youth programs and was a defender on the Fires MLS and U.S. Open Cup champions in the augural 1998 campaign and was a Fire assistant coach from 2001-03. John Thorrington, injury-riddled in six seasons with the Fire, has kept his career going with Vancouver, which acquired him in the expansion draft. Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit was on the Fires first Premier Development League team in 2001. Jay Nolly, a reserve goalkeeper for the Fire, was a Whitecaps netminder last season and earned the first MLS shutout in the history of the Vancouver franchise.

While Klopas doesnt have an injury issue to deal with this week, he does need to find the right playmaking midfielder. He used Chris Rolfe, Alex and Rafael Robayo in the role once manned by the departed Sebastian Grazzini against the Galaxy. None could get the Fire going.

There also could be a change in the back. Klopas didnt use usual right back Dan Gargan against Los Angeles, going with Jalil Anibaba there instead. It was an Anibaba handball that led to Robbie Keanes penalty kick that provided the only goal the Galaxy needed.

Klopas isnt pointing fingers for last weeks loss, though.

"It wasnt just one or two players, and we have to move on, he said. "In the end its important to be where we set our eyes in the beginning (back in the playoffs after a two-year absence). This is a strong group.

Shunning hypotheticals, Bears aren’t setting a timetable for Pernell McPhee

Shunning hypotheticals, Bears aren’t setting a timetable for Pernell McPhee

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — While John Fox said Pernell McPhee is “truly day to day” after being placed on the physically unable to perform Wednesday, he didn’t want to delve into a timetable for one of the key players in the Bears’ pass rush.

Fox said the Bears found a “little irregularity” in McPhee’s right knee — not the same one that troubled him last year — during a physical on Wednesday and decided to place the 28-year-old on the PUP list. McPhee will continue to receive treatment in Bourbonnais and can attend all team meetings, and could be removed from the PUP list at any time.

“I hate to get into that hypothetical stuff,” Fox said. “We did that a couple years ago (with Kevin White) and it kind of bit us so we'll just let the doctors evaluate it and when we're ready to give you something concrete, we'll give it to you.”

McPhee was placed on the PUP list prior to last year’s training camp and missed the first six games of the regular season. His absence was one of many for an injury-addled Bears pass rush that also was without LaMarr Houston for 14 games and Leonard Floyd for four games.

If McPhee winds up in danger of missing time early in the regular season, though, it could bolster Houston’s chances of making the Bears’ 53-man roster. A thought regarding Houston, who had eight sacks in 2015 but has missed a total of 22 games in three years in Chicago, was that the Bears would cut him and clear about $5 million worth of cap space. But the team needs depth behind Willie Young and Leonard Floyd, and Houston certainly would fit the bill to fill it (provided he’s back to 100 percent, too).

For now, though, the Bears are in wait-and-see mode with McPhee and aren’t indicating one way or the other what his future status could be.

“When you go on PUP it could be a day or it could be a week,” Fox said. “It could be, I mean, he might be fine and  then you’re back off of PUP. I don’t know.”

Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp

kyle-long-0727.jpg
AP

Recovering from injury and switching positions, there's a lot on Kyle Long's plate at Bears training camp

BOURBONNAIS — Saying that it’s been a tough offseason for Kyle Long would be putting it mildly.

Long has been recovering from a pair of injuries, a serious one to his ankle that required surgery and another to his shoulder. On top of that, the Bears are moving him to the other side of the offensive line, switching his position for the second time since he arrived in Chicago by moving him from right guard to left guard.

All that has made for a pretty crazy few months. So being back with the Bears for the first day of training camp allowed Long a return to normalcy that has been evasive for some time.

“First time being away from the team for that extended period. First time missing any games, like not being able to be on the sideline for games,” Long said Thursday. “Mobility was really tough. Gives you an appreciation for your health, and it makes you feel sympathetic and empathy toward people who don’t have great mobility. So I’m really trying to get back to where I was and keeping it that way.”

Long previously revealed that he lost a good deal of weight while recovering. He added Thursday that his body didn’t react well to medication he was taking. The best way he described a challenging recovery period was perhaps also the scariest.

“It just doesn’t make you feel like you,” Long said. “And I don’t like to be in that state.”

So being able to play football again is a welcome reality for the guy who’s arguably been the Bears’ best player for several seasons now.

Thing is, even that is providing a challenge for Long.

[BEARS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Changing positions is nothing new for the Oregon product, as the Bears shifted him from right guard to right tackle two years ago. Now he’s getting another new position, a move to left guard.

Long’s being a good sport about it and expressed excitement over getting to play a new position. But it’s another major thing added to this offseason — and now preseason — whirlwind.

“I like it. It’s fun. It’s a different view on things,” Long said.

“Be patient, but also understand that every rep is an opportunity to learn. You’ll be humbled over and over and over again, but you keep showing up, you keep swinging. You can only play one play at a time.

“There’s certain things that bug you as a player and there are certain things that are out of your control, and then there are certain things you can capitalize on, that I can take the knowledge I have acquired over the last few years at guard and at tackle and apply it to my new position. … We have a lot of guys in the room who can help me out as well. I just need to take it one day at a time.”

So entering this new season, there seems to be nothing but question marks surrounding the two-time Pro Bowler: Will Long return to full health by the start of the regular season? Will the transition to the left side of the line go smoothly? Will Long be the type of elite offensive lineman he’s been in the past?

Those are enough uncertainties to make anyone concerned. How’s Long handling things?

“I wouldn’t say I have a lot of anxiety in regards to my health and my future. I would say that there’s a lot of pressure. Pressure’s good. I’ve got to fight pressure with pressure. I’ve got to work harder and harder in the training room, in the weight room and on the field.

“There’s no real timetable right now, I’m just happy to be out here. Coach is letting me ease back into it. I knew it was going to be a long process when I initially got injured, and I don’t think the timing could have been much worse there toward the end of the season.

“But the cards are what they are, and we’ve got to play the hell out of them.”