Galaxy win MLS Cup over Houston

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Galaxy win MLS Cup over Houston

The longest season in Major League Soccer history ended Saturday, with the host Los Angeles Galaxy beating the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in a rematch of the MLS Cup final of 2011.
No American sports league has a season as long as MLS, which started training camp in mid-January and played its first-ever match in December this season. The 2013 campaign figures to be even longer, with the first regular season match slated for the second week of March a week earlier than the First Kick this season.
MLS hasnt announced its schedule for next season, and the clubs including the Fire have provided only sketchy details regarding their preseason plans, but the start of training is only about six weeks away. Already, Fire head coach Frank Klopas, assistant Mike Matkovich, managing director Javier Leon and vice president of soccer operations Guillermo Petrei spent time last week in Spain in preparation for some roster re-tooling.
The Fires full squad is expected to regroup again in Florida around Jan. 19 but the MLS re-entry draft (Friday), open tryout (Dec. 14-15) and combine leading into the Jan. 17 SuperDraft in Indianapolis will all be held before then.
Like the other 18 clubs, the Fire will have to deal with a bit different-looking MLS in 2013.
The champion Galaxy will undergo a major transformation, suggesting an even more wide-open competition is in the offing. (It was pretty wide open this season, with Los Angeles getting into the Western Conference playoffs as only the No. 4 seed, and the Dynamo was No. 5 in the Eastern Conference).
The Galaxy will lose David Beckham, the iconic English midfielder. His signing six seasons ago gave MLS a needed publicity boost, but at 37 he opted to move on with a club in Australia his likely next destination. He has, however, been rumored to be joining MLS as an owner, and the Galaxy is up for sale. Interestingly Anschutz Entertainment Group owns both teams in the MLS Cup final. AEG also brought the Fire into MLS before selling the franchise to current owner Andrew Hauptman in 2007.
Beckham was all about pizzazz in the beginning, but he played in four MLS Cup finals in his six seasons and was on the winning side twice. This season he had seven goals and nine assists in the regular season, proof that he still has significant skills.
The Galaxy will likely lose much more than him. Landon Donovan, just 30 but a member of a record six MLS Cup championship teams, talked about calling it quits, too, in the days leading into Saturdays match. Chances are Donovans just tired, and he should be. Between MLS and national team duty he played in 35 matches -- many of the high-pressure variety --in the last 36 weeks.
Omar Gonzalez, whose goal Saturday ignited the Galaxy and helped him win the games Most Valuable Player award, has received interest from European clubs with Germanys FC Nurnberg the leading contender. Brazilian midfielder Juninho was only on loan to Los Angeles for this season. He could be back with Sao Paulo in his homeland in 2013.
The Galaxy is already preparing for departures, with Chelseas Frank Lampard andor Real Madrids Kaka viable additions to the Los Angeles roster.
Houston wont be as decimated, but one key player figures to retire. Midfielder Brian Ching, 34, dropped from the starting 11 to a reserve role after undergoing his second meniscus surgery.
The Fire has been in three MLS Cup finals in its 15 seasons but won only the first one in 1998 and Josh Wolff the last active player on that seasons roster retired last week to take a full-time coaching position with D.C. United.
Chicagos connections to the 2013 championship match included former Fire head coach Dave Sarachan, one of Bruce Arenas key assistants in Los Angeles, and Houston forward Calen Carr, who scored the Dynamo goal.
The Fire made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this season and figures to be in the mix again in 2013. To be a title contender, however, the Fire will need to find a standout playmaking midfielder. The Fire played some good soccer after Sebastian Grazzini decided to return to Argentina in mid-season, but that position was clearly a deficiency down the stretch.

What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne

What the Bulls are getting in point guard Cameron Payne

The Bulls got more than a good dancer when they traded Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson for Cameron Payne and two others at Thursday's trade deadline. Though the 6-foot-3 point guard has been known more for his pregame dance routines with Russell Westbrook than his play on the court through two seasons, he’s still a 22-year-old two years removed from being a lottery pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Payne was a relative unknown to the casual NBA fan coming out of Murray State in 2015. Payne won the Ohio Valley Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 20.2 points, 6.0 assists and 1.9 steals, and ultimately became the lone mid-major selected in the lottery that year. He said at the 2015 Combine in Chicago that he wanted to be the next Steph Curry, going from an unknown at a mid-major to NBA stardom.

The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Payne that June over fellow point guards Terry Rozier, Delon Wright, Tys Jones and Jerian Grant, the last of whom the Bulls traded for this past offseason.

Payne’s biggest struggle in the NBA through two seasons backing up Westbrook has been his shooting. Though he shot nearly 46 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep as a college sophomore, Payne has been among the worst shooters in the league this season. In fact, among 295 players averaging at least 16 minutes per game, Payne’s 40.2 true shooting percentage is second worst in the league, in front of only Justise Winslow (39.7 percent).

Part of his lackluster shooting may be attributed to rust, as Payne missed the first 37 games of the season while recovering from a broken foot suffered in the preseason. He’s appeared in each of the Thunder’s last 20 games running the second unit, but with Westbrook putting up historic numbers there hasn’t been much of a need for him – he and Westbrook have shared the court for just 59 minutes this season.

The Thunder bench has produced the eighth worst net rating in the NBA this season, which could be part of the reason general manager Sam Presti made the move to acquire Doug McDermott and Taj Gibson. Payne’s shooting woes have attributed to that, as the Thunder are more than 8 points per 100 possessions worse offensively with him on the floor.

But Payne has provided value on the other end of the court; he has a positive net rating and his defensive RPM is 20th among point guards. Put in layman’s terms, Payne has been a solid defender, which has allowed him playing time despite his shooting.

He hasn’t shown a knack for being a great passer, as his assist ratio (Thunder possessions that end in a Payne assist) of 21.3 percent is 67th among 96 qualified point guards. He has improved on taking care of the ball, with his turnover ratio shrinking this season despite a slight uptick in minutes from his rookie season. It’s not uncommon to see a reserve point guard take a backseat, so the verdict is still out on how good a passer he can become.

Where he fits into the Bulls’ equation is another story. Fred Hoiberg’s group now touts five point guards, with Grant the only real player who can move off the ball – Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, and Payne are strictly point guards, and Isaiah Canaan is simply an end-of-the-bench option.

The Bulls liked Grant enough to include him in last summer’s trade for Derrick Rose, and he’s under contract for two more seasons. Rondo and Carter-Williams are likely playing their final seasons in Chicago, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gar Forman and John Paxson go after a floor general in a loaded point guard draft class.

All told, Payne projects as a nice second unit guard capable of playing solid defense. He’s under contract for two more seasons on a rookie deal and, given that he was playing behind Ironman in Westbrook, still has room to grow. He and Grant will challenge each other in practice and only be better for it, but the long-term solution at the point is not currently on the team’s roster.

Receiving Payne – as well as Anthony Morrow and Joffrey Lauvergne – wasn’t a terrible haul given Gibson’s impending free agency and Doug McDermott’s defensive limitations. But the trade certainly wasn’t the splash Bulls fans were hoping to see at the trade deadline, either.

Rick Renteria: White Sox not overly concerned about Todd Frazier's injury

Rick Renteria: White Sox not overly concerned about Todd Frazier's injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- They plan to stay vigilant, but the White Sox say Todd Frazier's left oblique injury isn't severe. 

A day after he said Frazier is day to day with what he described as a left oblique strain, manager Rick Renteria said the third baseman has improved.

"He's actually feeling good today, Renteria said. "Our purpose was to hold him back a little bit. Those side issues, muscular issues, oblique issues, they could be a pain in the rear, but it depends on the severity of those types of injuries. Right now it's just a mild soreness, so we're not concerned about it too much."

[MORE: White Sox rebuild offers 'leeway' for Lucas Giolito after frustrating 2016 season]

Renteria also said outfielder Charlie Tilson has shown some improvement. The hope is Tilson, who is expected to be sidelined for 10 days with a stress reaction in his right foot, could start limited activities on Friday.

Renteria also suggested Carlos Rodon could participate in his first bullpen session shortly. Rodon only began to play catch last Friday and hasn't pitched off the mound yet in camp.

"He feels good and he'll be out there soon," Renteria said. "He's extending and he feels good. He's holding it back a little bit."