Fire, Rolfe prepare to face Revolution

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Fire, Rolfe prepare to face Revolution

Finally the Fire can see how Chris Rolfe might perform in game situations.

Rolfe was no stranger to the Fire when the club signed him. He is the second-leading goal-scorer in franchise history, and he opted to return to Chicago after a three-year stint playing in Germany.

Two days into training with the Fire, Rolfe went down with a sprained left ankle. It took six weeks for the injury to heal, but Rolfe went through a full workout on Thursday and coach Frank Klopas said hell be available for selection in Saturdays road match against the New England Revolution.

The Fire needs the explosive striker after disappointing losses in the last two matches. The five-game road trip that the team took last week was a disaster a 2-1 loss at Columbus on Saturday in Major League Soccer play followed by a stoppage time defeat to the Michigan Bucks of the Premier Development League in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday.

In retrospect, the Fire should have refused to play the Open Cup match in an indoor facility. Indoor soccer isnt the sport the Fire plays, and injuries can be factor in such matches. The Fire has had enough of those, with Rolfe and Arne Friedrich the primary examples.

Friedrich, the veteran German defender, remains out with a right hamstring strain and is targeting his return for the June 17 home match against the New York Red Bulls. He has plenty of time to rest until then, since the Fire and the rest of MLS goes on break while international matches take over the world soccer calendar. Only midfielder Marco Pappa will be playing games during that period, which begins after the New England match.

Pappa joined the Guatemala national team last week and missed the Open Cup match. He wont play against New England, either, as Guatemala a perfect 6-0-0 with 19 goals scored and only three allowed was terrific in the last round of World Cup qualifying.

In the present international period, he has a friendly with Costa Rica in Guatemala City on Friday night, then the first two matches of CONCACAF Group A play Wednesday, June 6, at Jamaica and a home match June 12 against the United States.

The only other Fire player away during the international period is Victor Pineda, who will train with the U.S. under-20 squad.

As for the New England match, the Fire (5-4-3) will be bolstered by more than just Rolfes return. Sebastian Grazzini, who didnt play at Columbus or in the Open Cup match, is expected back. Klopas opted to rest him, but he went through a full workout on Thursday before the Fire departed for New England.

Not everyone else is at full strength, but Patrick Nyarko, Dan Gargan and Dominic Oduro will be available. Nyarko had to take shots of the pain reliever Toradol in order to play in the last 10 games. Hes had hip, hamstring and rib problems. Gargan (left foot) and Oduro (hamstring) say their ailments are improving.

New England (4-7-1) also had a tough week, losing 3-2 at D.C. United on Saturday before being eliminated from the Open Cup with a Tuesday loss. With 18 points the Fire is tied in points with fourth-place Columbus in the Eastern Conference of MLS. New England is in seventh place.

Fire to resume U.S. Open Cup at packed house in Cincinnati

Fire to resume U.S. Open Cup at packed house in Cincinnati

Since arriving this winter, Dax McCarty has been the one to raise the expectations for the Chicago Fire and continued to do so after the Fire beat Orlando.

He raised the question to himself if it was realistic for the Fire to win MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup and he said “Why not?”

The Fire’s U.S. Open Cup hopes take center stage on Wednesday when the team plays at FC Cincinnati in the round of 16. The Fire beat Saint Louis FC in the team’s first match in the tournament and even though Cincinnati is another USL team like St. Louis, things should be different.

Cincinnati is trying to showcase itself as a future MLS market and had a crowd of 30,160 for the 1-0 win against the Columbus Crew last round, which was a record for a U.S. Open Cup match played before the final. Another big crowd is expected when the Fire come to Nippert Stadium.

While cities like St. Louis and San Diego have run into trouble getting stadium deals done, Cincinnati has only had positive momentum so far in the expansion process. For example, there’s a story from USSoccer.com saying Cincinnati is the capital of American soccer.

Cincinnati’s ambition is clear in the statement from team president and general manager Jeff Berding when it was announced that Wednesday’s match will be broadcast on national TV.

“We look forward to showing off our great city as the hottest new soccer market to the rest of country,” Berding said.

To add to the spectacle of the match, a local brewery from each city placed a bet on the match in the name of charity.

The Fire brought mostly a first choice lineup to Missouri in the win last round. Of the Fire’s most common starters, only Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Accam, Nemanja Nikolic and Joao Meira sat out.

This time around Accam and McCarty will be out with their national teams. Nikolic did travel this time around.

The two teams met in the preseason, with the Fire winning 3-2 back on Feb. 22.

Cincinnati features a pair of former Fire players in Austin Berry (2012 MLS Rookie of the Year) and Corben Bone. Cincinnati is 5-5-5 in the USL this season, but as coach Alan Koch said after the team beat Columbus, “The beauty of cup soccer is anything can happen in one game.”

Cubs will make statement with trip to Donald Trump's White House

Cubs will make statement with trip to Donald Trump's White House

WASHINGTON — Within a matter of days last November, the Cubs won a staggering World Series for the first time in 108 years and Donald Trump won a scathing election to become the 45th president.

Those two surreal worlds will collide again on Wednesday when a group of Cubs get a private White House tour that can be interpreted as a political statement, something larger than this four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

This comes less than six months after the Cubs enjoyed an East Room ceremony that became the final official event at Barack Obama’s White House, at a polarizing time when speculation centered on whether or not the Golden State Warriors would skip the traditional photo op with Trump, not wanting to make an implicit endorsement after winning another NBA title.

“You’d have to talk to the Warriors,” manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday. “To go tomorrow is out of respect to the Ricketts family and to the office and the building itself. Listen, I like the United States a lot. I like living here a lot. And I like everything that it represents a lot.

“So when you get a chance as a citizen to get to go to the White House, you go. I think you go. Whether you like the person that’s running the country or not — out of respect to the office itself — you go.

“I don’t agree with all the other banter that’s going on right now, because I have a different perspective.”

Chairman Tom Ricketts and his brother, Todd, a board member who withdrew his nomination to become Trump’s deputy commerce secretary, brought the World Series trophy to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and did a meet and greet with Illinois Congressional staffers at the Russell Senate Office Building.

Within the Ricketts family/Cubs board of directors, Pete is Nebraska’s Republican governor and Laura was a superdelegate and a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein is also active in Democratic circles.

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Maddon also plans to attend a luncheon on Wednesday with young Republicans organized by Congressman Lou Barletta, an old buddy from growing up in Hazleton, Penn., and an early Trump endorser.

“It’s not as ceremonial as the last one was, going there as the World Series champions,” Maddon said. “It’s more based on the Ricketts family relationship and the crowd that’s going to the White House.

“The Ricketts family’s been tied in there really well ... so wherever Mr. Ricketts would like me to go, I’m going to do (it). Mr. Ricketts and the Ricketts family has been good to all of us, so part of that is that.

“The other part is whenever you have a chance to go to the White House, I think it’s easy to say yes out of respect to the office and the building itself.”

Maddon didn’t know if meeting Trump would be on the itinerary and said he understood if some players passed on the invite.

“I don’t have any rules to begin with,” Maddon said. “I just want you to run hard to first base. As long as you run hard to first base, they can make up their own mind whether they want to go to the White House or not.

“Furthermore, not having to wear a suit, I think, is the best part of this whole trip, because, to me, to have to dress a certain way to impress somebody, my God, nobody would ever fail. So I’m all about all of the circumstances right now.”

Maddon didn’t sound at all concerned about the optics of visiting the White House at a time of travel bans, sub-40 percent approval ratings and investigations into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, or meeting with a president who compared Chicago to Afghanistan.

“I like living here a lot,” Maddon said. “I like this country a lot. And I would much prefer living here than some of the other places that adopt different methods of government.

“I think sometimes that gets confused when people want to take a stand and not really realizing actually what we have, which is a lot better than most every place else.”