Fire seeking consistency heading into Columbus

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Fire seeking consistency heading into Columbus

The Fires record (5-3-3) isnt bad, but the club has been inconsistent in the first third of the Major League Soccer season.

While the Fire are coming off a 2-1 home win over FC Dallas, Saturdays road match against the Columbus Crew would be a good place for consistency to kick in. The Fire are fourth and the Crew (4-4-3) fifth in the Eastern Conference so this amounts to an early-season meeting of teams on the playoff bubble, and a Crew victory will pull Columbus into a tie with the Fire with 18 points. This will also be the first match in Fire history carried on NBC5, and the club is paying for 10 busloads (600 fans) to attend the game.

The Fires visit to Columbus last season was encouraging. A late goal by the now-departed Christian Nazarit gave the Fire a 1-0 victory, and it was also Frank Klopas first win as the clubs interim head coach. The Fire, of course, played well after that and Klopas interim tag was dropped by owner Andrew Hauptman in the offseason.

Wednesdays home win over FC Dallas was encouraging as well. It marked the first time the Fire could beat FC Dallas at Toyota Park. FC Dallas was 5-0-1 there until goals by Marco Pappa and Sebastian Grazzini and a big save by goalkeeper Sean Johnson finally enabled the Fire to break that strange hex.

That win could also mean the Fire finally won the Brimstone Cup, which is symbolic of the superiority of one club over the other each season. It has become a silly competition anyway. The Cup rivalry was established when FC Dallas was known as the Dallas Burn, meaning the Fire would meet the Burn. Cute, eh?

The rivalry never was given much more meaning than any other regular season MLS match by either team, and when the Burn was no longer part of the equation the whole rivalry aspect diminished still further. Still, the Dallas franchise held possession of the Brimstone Cup every year since 2001, but Wednesdays match was their only MLS matchup of this season.

Rivalry or not, the win was big as far as Klopas was concerned.

"It was just a huge win. We scored from behind again, which shows a lot of character for this group," he said.

Once again the Fire gave up the games first goal. Then Grazzini tied it before halftime with what Klopas described as "fantastic.a world-class goal." Marco Pappa got the game-winner in the second half and Johnsons save on a penalty kick was also critical to the Fire rebounding from a 2-1 road loss to the lowly Portland Timbers on Sunday.

"Its sometimes difficult with road trips," said Klopas. "We came back from Portland, and we had a great response from the group."

The Crew is coming into this match unbeaten (2-0-2) in March, and a 2-0 road win over the Seattle Sounders in Columbus' last outing was especially impressive.

This road trip to Columbus wont be as long mileage-wise for the Fire, but itll lead into another important match Tuesdays first in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Fire will face a minor league club, the Michigan Bucks, on Tuesday at Pontiac, Mich. The Open Cup is more important to the Fire than it is to many MLS clubs. The team has won it four times and fell 2-0 in Seattle in last years final.

On the injury front the Fire came through the Dallas match relatively unscathed and striker Chris Rolfe resumed training with the full squad after nursing a sprained left ankle. Whether hell be available against the Crew, however, is still yet to be determined.

The Fire will lose Pappa for the Open Cup match. Hell be with Guatemalas national team for a match against Costa Rica in Guatemala City.

Carlos Rodon plays catch but timeline for return still uncertain

Carlos Rodon plays catch but timeline for return still uncertain

Carlos Rodon played catch in front of Don Cooper on Monday afternoon but only added to the intrigue surrounding his health when he declined to talk to the media.

On the 10-day disabled list with a biceps strain, the White Sox said Rodon continues to make progress in his rehab program. Cooper said the third-year pitcher felt and looked fine as he played catch in left field. But neither he nor manager Rick Renteria offered many more details on when Rodon may return or even when he could throw off a mound.

"He looked like he played catch good," Cooper said. "His throwing program is progressing. He felt fine. He threw the ball fine. That's kind of where we are at. He threw fine and move on to the next."

Rodon is in town for several days to be observed by the White Sox. On Friday, general manager Rick Hahn described the visit as a "routine follow-up visit." But other than making sure they're cautious with Rodon, the club hasn't been able to offer a specific timetable for their prized pitcher.

"I can't tell you in detail what the program is," Renteria said. "I know it involves throwing and making sure he's getting treatments and making sure it's taken care of, the issue he had with his biceps. We know it's getting better."

But the improvement hasn't made the situation any easier to deal with. When they started him on a delayed program this spring, the White Sox had Rodon pegged for 33 starts and 200 innings. As of now, there's no certainty when he'll make his first turn and the calendar is nearing May.

"He's frustrated," Cooper said. "He wants to get through this, through all of it. We are just there to try to make sure he's doing things right and there's progression.

"Well, I mean we've already taken a lot of caution. He's important to us now and in the future. We wouldn't rush with him or anybody."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can Bulls bounce back against Celtics?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Can Bulls bounce back against Celtics?

In the latest edition of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, CSN's David Kaplan is joined by the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh and the Chicago Sun-Times' Adam Jahns to discuss the Bulls falling to a 2-2 series tie with the Celtics.

The guys predict how the first-round playoff series will end and talk about how Isaiah Canaan will fare as the starting point guard in Game 5.

Then, the panel discusses whether Matt Davidson should be in the White Sox lineup more and who will still be playing on the South Side when the White Sox rebuild is done.

Finally, the panel discusses a couple of contract extensions for Pat Fitzgerald and Chris Collins at Northwestern.

Take a listen to the episode below: