Friedrich makes Fire debut in friendly vs. Louisville

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Friedrich makes Fire debut in friendly vs. Louisville

Arne Friedrich played in 82 matches for Germanys national team. Despite his star-studded career in Europe, his debut with the Fire on Saturday came against a bunch of college kids.

Not surprisingly, Friedrichs superior skill was clearly evident as he lasted 88 minutes in a 1-0 victory over the University of Louisville, a squad that included Fire first-round draft pick Austin Berry on its roster last season. On Saturday Berry played beside Friedrich in the middle of the Fires back line.

Though Fire coach Frank Klopas used 21 players, this match -- designed to keep the team fit during a bye week -- was all about Friedrich. He didnt play in the Fires first three Major League Soccer matches because his fitness wasnt up to snuff. Hes expected to be ready for Sundays home game against the Houston Dynamo, however.

"This is my target," said Friedrich. "(Saturday) was my first game after six months. Im about 70 percent, but to be 100 percent I need some games."

Not only did Friedrich, 32, play his first game for the Fire, it was also his first game of any kind in the United States.

"I played against the United States when I was with our national team," he said. "And I saw only two MLS games because in Germany it was hard to get it (on television)."

Friedrich feels he needs to improve his fitness and get to know his teammates better on the field, but otherwise his adjustment to a new city hasnt been difficult.

"Its been no problem. From the first day I liked this city and the people very much," he said. "And I got lucky with the weather.

His first match was played in beautiful conditions on the Toyota Park practice field, and that encouraged about 200 fans to turn out. A group of Section 8 supporters was particularly vocal while standing on a hill behind the south goal. Friedrich was almost as vocal on the field.

"The most important thing is for us to know each other," said Friedrich. "Sometimes weve got to talk more on the pitch, but this takes time. I want to help this team with my experience. The target is to get to the playoffs, and when we get there anything can happen."

Klopas called Friedrichs performance "solid" and said hed be ready for the Houston match.

"We pushed him as much as we could in this game," said Klopas. "It was an easy game for him. Its important for someone to be vocal like that, with the experience to guide you."

Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko and Dan Gargan didnt play against the collegians, and only Marco Pappa played the full 90 minutes. He scored the lone goal with an 18-yard blast off his left foot in the 12th minute.

Gargan, nursing a left toe injury, jogged along the sidelines before the match. Jalil Anibaba, who started beside Gibbs as a central defender in the first three matches, moved to Gargans spot on the right side but Klopas would give no indication what lineup hell use against the Dynamo.

Sean Johnson figures to return in goal after missing preseason and the first three MLS matches while spending time training with Everton of the English Premier League and the U.S. under-23 team in its bid to qualify for the Olympics. Klopas held him out of the last MLS match because he hadnt seen much game action lately, and the last of those appearances didnt go too well. Johnson came on as a reserve against El Salvador in the last match of Olympic qualifying and allowed a tying goal in stoppage time. The tie advanced El Salvador and eliminated the U.S. in the tournament.

Klopas said Johnson has shaken off that negative experience, but feels last years starting netminder isnt game-sharp yet. He played the first half and Paolo Tornaghi the second against Louisville. Johnson played all 90 minutes for the Fire reserves in a 2-1 loss at Colorado on Monday and will likely play in the reserves next match, on Tuesday at Sporting Kansas City, before Klopas decides on Sundays starter.

"His attitudes been very good in training," said Klopas, indicating that Johnson has shaken off the letdown vs. El Salvador.

"You just have to move on with your career," said Klopas. "You cant hold on and let that bother you. Whether youre a goalkeeper or not, you learn through difficult moments. Sean has learned from that."

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.