Fire sign Friedrich for 2013

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Fire sign Friedrich for 2013

The Fire hasnt finished work on its 2012 season yet, but the club already took its first big step towards preparing for 2013 on Wednesday with the signing of German defender Arne Friedrich.

Friedrich, 33, was the Fires Defender of the Year this season and made it clear in the waning days of the campaign that he wanted to play one more season in Bridgeview. He didnt have to do that. He undoubtedly would have had other options, but -- for whatever reason -- he didnt want to play across the pond again.

"This is what I told everybody in the past, before I came to America," Friedrich said after the Fire was eliminated from the Major League Soccer playoffs last week. "I would never again play in Europe.

He did plenty of that quite well in the past, as a member of Germanys third-place finishers in the 2006 and 2010 World Cup finals. He had 82 caps for Germany before playing his last match for Wolfsburg in his countrys Bundesliga.

Friedrich signed with the Fire on Mar. 7 and made 23 appearances in the 34 MLS regular season matches. His presence helped make Austin Berry, his central defender partner, a favorite for MLS Rookie of the Year. They were key players in helping the Fire limit opponents to 41 goals in 34 games. That tied the Fire for second-best defensively in the Eastern Conference.

Slowly but surely Javier Leon, the Fires president of soccer operations, will build a team for next season, but Friedrich is a good start. His signing might mean the departure of Cory Gibbs, who suffered a serious knee injury in the third game of the season and underwent surgery. He still isnt in full training, as his postseason workouts this week have been inside with a focus on fitness.

Leon, in a statement announcing Friedrichs re-signing, said "Building continuity at the center back position is a priority for 2013."

The quick re-signing of Friedrich was in sharp contrast to last season when another veteran, Mexican midfielder Pavel Pardo, didnt sign a new contract until January. Pardo, like Friedrich, was happy with his first season in MLS and made it clear he wanted to return for another season. The Fire wanted him, too. It just took longer for that to happen.

Friedrich sounds like hes planning to play just one more year, but thats always subject to change.

If this years back line of Friedrich, Berry, Jalil Anibaba and Gonzalo Segares remains intact, the Fire will be in good shape defensively for next season. The lineup in front of them might not resemble this years nearly as much, however.

The Fire needs an attacking, playmaking midfielder. The club did some winning after Sebastian Grazzini returned to Argentina after a midseason contract dispute but was never as good. Coach Frank Klopas did some lineup patching, but it didnt work in the last six matches when the Fire stumbled to a 1-4-1 finish (counting the season-ending 2-1 home loss to the Houston Dynamo in the Fires first postseason appearance since 2009).

Klopas will keep his players on hand for workouts through next Thursday, Nov. 15. Leon is also expected to make a visit from his offices in California as the offseason administrative work continues.

The Fire could lose a veteran or two in the MLS entry draft in early January and will add a player -- at least temporarily -- when the winner of the Dec. 14-15 open tryout in Bridgeview is chosen.

That player is guaranteed a week in the first phase of preseason training, expected to begin in Florida in mid-January. The MLS SuperDraft, on Jan. 17 in Indianapolis, will also bring some fresh talent to the camp.

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson gets some love from NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson gets some love from NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Is Northwestern becoming QB U?

Trevor Siemian and Mike Kafka have already been drafted this decade, and Clayton Thorson — the team's current signal-caller — could be next.

ESPN's noted NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Thorson as one of his top five underclassman quarterbacks ahead of the 2018 draft.

Now that doesn't mean much right now. Kiper himself dubbed his position-by-position rankings as "way too early." Thorson's stock could soar or fall depending on what happens next season. And Thorson will still have one season of NCAA eligibility remaining after the upcoming 2017 campaign, meaning he might not even be in the 2018 NFL Draft.

But it's solid praise for a quarterback who looked much better in his second season as the Wildcats' starter than he did as a redshirt freshman the year prior.

As a redshirt sophomore, Thorson completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 3,182 yards and 22 touchdowns (fourth in the Big Ten in both of those categories) compared to nine interceptions. Thorson also rushed in for five touchdowns on the ground.

His quarterback rating skied from 95.9 as a freshman to 125.9 as a sophomore.

Now, there's little telling where Kiper might rank Thorson among all quarterbacks for the 2018 draft. He ranked five seniors and five underclassmen, with Thorson ranked fifth among underclassmen, behind Southern California's Sam Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Louisville's Lamar Jackson, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

But certainly the Northwestern quarterback has captured the attention of draft evaluators and could follow Siemian and Kafka as recent Wildcats signal-callers to hear their name during the draft.

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

Jose Quintana rocked as White Sox swept by Diamondbacks

PHOENIX -- Jose Quintana looked as if he might be on the way to a second consecutive gem on Wednesday afternoon before it quickly took a turn for the worse.

After three perfect frames, Quintana got hit hard in the middle innings and was forced out of the contest. The Arizona Diamondbacks offense awoke from an early slumber against Quintana to complete a sweep of the White Sox, who fell 8-6 in front of 18,002 at Chase Field. The eight earned runs allowed by Quintana are the most he has yielded in a start in two years.

None of what transpired in the first three innings Wednesday offered any indication of what was to come. Quintana picked up where he’d left off on Friday night in Seattle when he combined with David Robertson on a one-hitter.  

His offspeed was diving and Diamondbacks hitters had no chance. Quintana induced checked swing after checked swing and racked up five strikeouts in three innings. He even made a smooth defensive play on Gregor Blanco’s bunt-base hit attempt to start the fourth inning with the White Sox leading 2-0.

But then it all went south.

Nick Ahmed doubled to left and red-hot Paul Goldschmidt doubled to deep center to make it a 2-1 game before Chris Owings tied it with an RBI single. Things only got worse for Quintana in the fifth inning when he hit the first hitter Brandon Drury with a 1-2 pitch. Quintana then left a 1-0 fastball over the middle and Jake Lamb didn’t miss the mistake, driving it the opposite way for a two-run homer and a 4-2 lead. Four batters later, Ahmed doubled in a pair and the rout was on. Goldschmidt’s single knocked Quintana from the game.

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Owings had a sac fly off Anthony Swarzak to score one inherited run and Drury singled in the other to put Arizona ahead by six.

Quintana allowed eight hits and struck out seven. The eight runs he allowed were the most he’d allowed in a start since the Detroit Tigers tagged him for nine runs on April 19, 2015.

The poor outing raised Quintana’s earned run-average by nearly a point from 3.92 to 4.82. Even though it’s still more than two months until the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline, Quintana’s inconsistent start to the season has also almost certainly harmed his perceived trade value. Not only has Quintana pitched poorly, but shifts in the plans of other clubs could provide contending teams with more trade options. However, with teams still focused on the upcoming draft and the deadline a way off, Quintana has more than enough time to get back on track.

One player who has continued to stay hot for more than a month now is first baseman Jose Abreu, who blasted his 100 th homer on Tuesday night. For an encore, Abreu matched his career high with four hits, including a two-run homer in the sixth inning that got the White Sox to within 8-4.

Melky Cabrera had an RBI groundout in the seventh inning and Abreu singled in another to make it an 8-6 game. But the White Sox would get no closer.

Leury Garcia’s solo homer in the second inning gave the White Sox an early lead. Abreu doubled in the fourth and scored on a double play to make it a 2-0 lead.

From April 19th on, Abreu is hitting .347/.404/.677 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances. He’s currently on pace for 36 home runs, which would tie the career high he established in 2014.