Chicago Fire

Holiday Cheer!

Holiday Cheer!

Wednesday, December 30

Now that the stress of the Christmas part of the holidays is over, I can concentrate, or should I say re-concentrate on sports. Besides Team Frankie O in the fantasy football playoffs I havent had as much time for the sports world. Well that ends now!

Ive always considered the New Years holiday as kind of like my Opening Day. All of the frustrations of the past year are gone and I hit the reset button. As always, I have great anticipation, and am convinced that, finally, this is the year. Now usually I open up on the road because Im at work, but this year Im off so Ill open at home. And I couldnt have picked a better year. New Years Eve is stacked with bowl games and Ill probably catch most of them, in between snacks.

But a game Ive been waiting for since the hockey season started will be on the 31st this year. The New Jersey Devils are coming in to play the Blackhawks and this will be a real test. Over the last 15 years or so, or when Martin Brodeur became their goaltender, the Devils have been good, but then there is a year when they have the look, usually it ends with them hoisting the Cup, three times in fact. Well, they have that look again. It all starts with Brodeur. I dont think that most people could name 2 other people on their team, but with Brodeur, who cares? They start with him and build the team out. Whos 2 behind the Hawks in goals against? The Devils. Whos tied with the Hawks for most points? The Devils.

Who has beaten the defending Stanley Cup Champion 3 times, in their own building, by a combined score of 12-1? Thats right, you guessed it, the Devils. Theyve got the look all right. One thing in the Hawks favor though, is that the Devils are on the second night of a back-to-back (Pittsburgh again, this time in New Jersey), and their 4th game in 6th nights. They should be a little tired, but then again, there is that guy in net. I cant wait for the game. It will make a statement to the league about both teams. And, I know, a little early, but if youre dreaming the big dream, this could be the team that ultimately stands in the way.

After a couple hours of sleep, it will be right back to the sofa for an early, for a nocturnal bartender anyway, trifecta of 2 bowl games and the Winter Classic starting at 10:00 am. (How do people get up that early?!) First up is Northwestern in the Outback Bowl. Like Ive said here many times, Im a fan of Coach Pat Fitzgerald and love how his teams play. They dont quit. I think its time for them to get the schools second bowl victory and first in 61 years, especially after their heart-breaking loss last year in over-time in the Alamo Bowl. Go Cats!

Then, near the end of the NW game, its time to watch two of MY teams, unfortunately I dont feel good about either one. At noon, Penn State takes on LSU in the Capital One Bowl and the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Boston Bruins in Fenway Park in the 3rd Winter Classic hockey game.

Any time a team from the Big 10 takes on one from the SEC, there is concern. With PSU this year, the two times they played tough, fast defenses, (Ohio State and Iowa) they looked over-matched and got spanked. LSU is very tough and physical on the defensive side, and like most SEC teams, scary fast. This could get ugly. One thing though, Joe Paterno owns the all-time record for bowl wins (23) and this is because, given time, he can come up with a game-plan to play anybody. Thank goodness hes had plenty of time, (7 weeks) I hope hes been staying up late!

As for the Flyers, theyve had a tumultuous season to say the least. Carrying the weight of high expectations, they started out good, then, out of nowhere fell apart. (Sound familiar?) This led to their coach getting fired. It was a classic case of getting rid of the nice guy, players coach, and replacing him with the stern task-master. Theyre probably having lots of fun in their clubhouse these days. NOT! It seems to be working though, theyre on a little winning streak, and actually went into Boston and beat the Bruins 3-1 two weeks ago. Ill keep my fingers crossed. But the thing about the game, obviously, is watching them skate around in Fenway. It looked awesome here at Wrigley last year and I wouldnt expect it to be any less so this year. Will there be Chow-dah at the end of the bench to help keep the players warm?

After the inevitable afternoon nap, Ill be ready for the Granddaddy. Doesnt matter whos playing, Ill always watch the Rose Bowl. Does any other football field look better on TV? Someday Ill have to go and check it out for myself.

Then its time for the soap-opera that will be the Sugar Bowl. Whats superman going to do next? Deliver a baby at halftime? And, whither Urban Meyer? Do you think the announcers will talk about the game at all? Keep Tom Brennaman away! Im glad the games on New Years Day though. I like that Im able to watch almost all of the big-time traditional bowls, since for the BCS they spread them out, but theres still a part of me that misses the log-jam of games that used to occur on the 1st. I'll just have to make do with the 5 games that are on, stretching out for 13 hours, finishing off with the Sugar Bowl, which will provide the perfect background noise for me to doze off to.

I cant wait. The two-day New Years sports feast will be the perfect way to start the year and, most importantly, help me get my sports swerve back on! And, not a moment too soon, because the NFL playoffs are less than 10 days away, and Ive got to be ready for that heartbreak!

Happy New Year!

Former Mexican youth international goalkeeper Richard Sanchez sees joining Fire as 'great opportunity'

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USA TODAY

Former Mexican youth international goalkeeper Richard Sanchez sees joining Fire as 'great opportunity'

When Jorge Bava’s elbow injury required season-ending surgery, the Chicago Fire suddenly needed another goalkeeper.

In his place, the Fire signed Richard Sanchez. The 23-year-old is a product of the FC Dallas academy and signed with the club as a homegrown player.

Internationally, Sanchez has represented Mexico at the under-17 and under-20 levels, including El Tri’s triumph in the 2011 U-17 World Cup in Mexico. On the club level, he was most recently under contract with Tigres in Mexico’s Liga MX.

“My contract ended with Tigres over in Monterrey,” Sanchez said. “We didn’t agree to some terms so now my contract runs out and I was a free agent. I was training on my own, kind of doing gym sessions and personal training on my own with some other goalkeeper coach. I also trained with FC Dallas before and was kind of getting ready for whatever was to come.”

What came was Sanchez signing with MLS and going through the league’s allocation process for returning players. It’s one of the more confusing mechanisms in MLS, but the end result was the Fire sending a third round pick in next year’s draft to Portland to move up in the allocation order and then using that spot to sign Sanchez on Aug. 11.

Sanchez said his intention was to come back to MLS to get playing time and experience after his Tigres contract ran out.

“I thought I can grow and look for some minutes and that’s kind of the opportunity that popped up in Chicago,” Sanchez said. “Through the allocation process and the re-entry process of MLS, it’s kind of weird is probably the word that you can use, but hey, it gave me a great opportunity here in Chicago. They picked up my rights so I’m glad to be here and I’m glad to be a part of this team.

“Everybody has been good so I’m just adapting now to the city, to the people here and hoping to help the team.”

Sanchez said he likes coach Veljko Paunovic’s style of focusing on possession and building out of the back. That is what Sanchez said he was used to from his time in Mexico.

Professional minutes have been hard to come by for Sanchez, who didn’t make any appearances for Dallas or Tigres. His only first-team appearances have come on loans to lower tier leagues. Regardless, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said he likes Sanchez’s resume and skillset.

“Richard gives us a player who knows the league, who knows pressure moments, who’s experienced in division one football,” Rodriguez said last week. “Whether or not that translates to a longer stay with us, again we’ll have to feel that out a little bit, see how much he likes Chicago and what our program is about and then see if it remains a fit for him.”

Sanchez joins starter Matt Lampson and rookie Stefan Cleveland as the Fire’s goalkeepers. For now, Sanchez is still integrating into the team and the system, but if he impresses enough he could be competing for playing time next year.

“Obviously you want to compete for the job and what they look for is that competitiveness within the group so of course I think that’s the expectation they have for me is to bring some good competition within this group, add to what they’ve already built up to this moment and in my case, a goalkeeper’s case, just help out Lampson and Stefan to be better," Sanchez said. "That’s kind of what I’m here for.”

Mitch Trubisky takes first-team reps in Bears practice, but 'no change' in QB depth chart

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USA TODAY

Mitch Trubisky takes first-team reps in Bears practice, but 'no change' in QB depth chart

Mitch Trubisky took reps with members of the Bears' first-team offense on Wednesday, the first time the No. 2 overall pick worked with the team's top unit in practice since being drafted in April. 

The Bears have, to this point, been steadfast in giving all first-team reps to Mike Glennon, who signed a three-year, $45 million contract in March. But while Trubisky received those first-team reps Wednesday, Glennon will still be the team's starter against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. 

Coach John Fox said there's been "no change in our quarterback depth chart."

Trubisky will play with the first-team offense in the all-important third preseason game this weekend, though. Glennon will play the first half, while Trubisky will begin the third quarter with the rest of the first-team offense. 

Fox said the Bears want to get a "true evaluation" of Trubisky and added this plan is something the team discussed for a while. Mark Sanchez remains the Bears' backup, per Fox.