Fire travel to Pacific Northwest, face Sounders

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Fire travel to Pacific Northwest, face Sounders

Friday, April 8, 2011Posted: 5:20 p.m.

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com

Last Wednesday, the Fire played in front of a spattering of home fans in Peoria. This weekend, theyll take the field in front of 36,000 green-clad supporters.

Only in MLS.

The Fire open a two-game west coast swing Saturday at Qwest Field in Seattle, taking on the Sounders before a Thursday night tilt against the expansion Portland Timbers.

Seattle, a team expected to contend for the MLS Cup, has gone winless in its first four matches this season, losing to the Galaxy and the Red Bulls before drawing with Houston and San Jose.

Fire captain Logan Pause knows that the Emerald City natives will be restless come Saturday.

Its a special place in Seattle, theres no denying that, Pause said of Qwest Field, which has averaged crowds of 36,318 this season. They havent won yet this year, so it leads to a little bit of a dangerous recipe. We have to be wary of that and know that theyre going to come in with a whole lot.

Pause and the Fire would be wary either way Seattle is amongst the deepest teams in the league, and the Sounders might have the best midfield in all of MLS.

That four-man midfield goes five-deep with talent any squad would envy. The mercurial Brad Evans is one of the most dangerous central midfielders in the league, evidenced by his goal last week against San Jose, and Osvaldo Alonso is the key cog of a Seattle machine that has won back-to-back US Open Cups in 2009 and 2010. Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez, who played for Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup, fortify Seattles attack out wide, and versatile Swedish import Erik Fribergs form in his first MLS games is making team owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer look like a genius.

Add in the dangerous forwards Steve Zakuwani and Freddy Montero and a dependable backline led by James Riley, and it should come as no surprise that Seattles expectations for the 2011 season were high.

But things have not gone as expected through four games, and while Pause doesnt want to read into Seattles struggles too much, he knows the Sounders are eager to prove to their home fans that the first four games were flukes.

Lets be honest its four games, Pause said after practice Thursday. Theyve got 30 more to go. Its by no means indicative of really what that teams about. You know that they are going to be bringing it on Saturday, thats for sure.

Any player will tell you that the first 20 minutes of the game is vital, but the Fire are giving the start of the game even more credence this week. The Fire players expect a relentless onslaught of an attack from Seattle to start the game.

I think we have identified that thats probably whats going to happen, Pause said. Not getting a win yet, you know that theyre going to come out flying, especially in front of their home fans. Were not worried about that. We expect thats going to happen, so we prepare for that.

Pauses role in central midfield will be to quell the Seattle attack and create counter attacks if an overeager Seattle leaves openings. Pauses role as captain will ask him to be the coolest head on the pitch and transfer that calmness to his teammates, even if Seattle brings waves of pressure against the backdrop of 36,000 fans.

It will be a great learning experience and Im sure a little bit of a shock for young guys who havent experienced that sort of atmosphere, Pause said. But regardless if its in front of 40,000 or in front of a couple thousand in Peoria, the game is the same.

Fire Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos doesnt see Qwest Field as a challenge that needs to be fought. Last season, the Fire played one of their best games of the season in Seattle and looked poised to draw on the road, but Montero capped his double in the ninety-second minute to steal a 2-1 win for the Sounders.

The Fires roster is hardly the same less than a year later. Its possible that as few as four players could make the start for Chicago in both the 2010 and 2011 matches. De los Cobos raved about his roster after training Thursday and spoke of the unique opportunity his team and its strong personality has ahead of it.

Its beautiful, de los Cobos said. I wish to always play with this ambiance. Its beautiful to play with at full stadium. And the motivation is the same way, because we need to show in front of 38,000 people that we are a good team.

NOTES: Defender Corey Gibbs will travel with the team to the West coast and could start on Saturday. Centerback Josip Mikulic will remain in Chicago and will miss at least the games against Seattle and Portland. De los Cobos could not say when Mikulic could be expected to return to the lineup. Dasan Robinson or 21-year-old Yamith Cuesta will replace Mikulic in the starting lineup, and if Gibbs proves unable to play, both will start.

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

Jose Quintana turns in stellar outing as White Sox crush Twins in series finale

MINNEAPOLIS -- Guess who’s back?

Jose Quintana turned in the kind of game on Thursday afternoon that reminds you why he has been one of baseball’s top pitchers the past few seasons. Working with a swing-and-miss curveball and another shocking barrel of run support, Quintana waited out a near five-hour delay to produce a stellar outing. Quintana struck out nine batters in 6 2/3 scoreless innings as the White Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 27,684 at Target Field. Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier and Matt Davidson all homered for the White Sox, who finished with 18 hits and a 3-3 mark on their road trip.

After making several baby steps in his past few starts, Quintana ran wild in the series finale against a Twins team that he has always struggled against. While he worked deliberately, Quintana never got into trouble facing a team against whom he was 6-8 with a 4.28 ERA in his career.

The left-hander used a nasty, biting curveball along with sharp fastball command to keep Minnesota hitters off balance. Quintana struck one batter in each of the first five innings before he picked up steam. He struck out two batters each in the sixth and seventh innings and is averaging a career best 8.97 strikeouts per nine innings this season.

He struck out Miguel Sano three times in three trips and never allowed a man past second base in a 113-pitch effort. Quintana allowed five hits and walked none.

Quintana has a 2.25 ERA in his last four starts as he’s allowed 19 hits and six earned runs in 24 innings. He has walked eight and struck out 24.

[MORE: White Sox will give Tim Anderson freedom to make mistakes

The White Sox offense made it all much easier for Quintana for a second straight start. Six days after they produced an early four-spot for Quintana against Toronto, the White Sox scored five times and knocked Minnesota starter Nik Turley out in the first inning.

Showing no signs of malaise after a 290-minute rain delay, Abreu and Frazier each blasted two-run homers off Turley to put the White Sox up 4-0. With two outs and Turley gone, Adam Engel singled off reliever Buddy Boshers to make it 5-0 in the first.

The White Sox continued to add on for Quintana as Kevan Smith and Engel each singled in runs in the third to give the 2016 All-Star pitcher a seven-run cushion. Engel finished with four hits and Smith tied a career high with three.

Davidson increased the lead to 8-0 in the fifth inning with a 427-foot blast off Craig Breslow, his 17th homer. Davidson also singled, doubled and walked. The White Sox scored once more in the seventh when Tim Anderson (two hits) doubled in a run off Breslow.

After they produced 22 runs of support for Quintana in his first 13 starts this season, the White Sox have scored 20 in his last two.

After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Arizona PF Lauri Markkanen

After trading Jimmy Butler, Bulls select Arizona PF Lauri Markkanen

The Bulls enterted their rebuilding phase on Thursday night after trading Jimmy Butler. And with the No. 7 pick they received in that deal, they selected Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen.

Markkanen, a 7-footer from Finland, played one season for the Wildcats, averaging 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 30.8 minutes per game. Markkanen was a sharpshooter, connecting on 42.3 percent of his 163 3-pointers.

His defense is a question mark but his pick-and-pop ability should fit in well in Fred Hoiberg's offense.

The Bulls also received shooting guard Zach LaVine and point guard Kris Dunn in the deal for Butler. The Bulls sent the No. 16 pick along with Butler. They still have the No. 38 overall pick in the second round.