Jennings the leading Pro Bowl vote-getter at cornerback

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Jennings the leading Pro Bowl vote-getter at cornerback

Tim Jennings has missed the last two games, but fans didn't hold it against him.
The NFL released its top vote-getters at each position this afternoon, and Jennings led the way for NFC cornerbacks with more than 312,000 votes.
Despite missing the last two weeks with a shoulder injury, Jennings still leads the NFL with eight interceptions. He has picked off a pass in five games, including three multi-takeaway performances.
The seven-year pro got off to a hot start in 2012, intercepting four passes through the first three weeks, including two off Andrew Luck and another off Aaron Rodgers. His September accomplishments earned him the Defensive Player of the Month award.
Jennings was likely helped out by the presence of Charles Tillman, who early in the season was a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. He won the Defensive Player of the Month award in October after intercepting two passes, returning both for touchdowns, and forcing two fumbles. There's a chance Tillman could join Jennings in the defensive backfield when the full rosters are announced next week.
The rest of the NFC North was well-represented on the list of leading vote-getters, as Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, John Kuhn. Jeff Saturday, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson all were ranked at the top of their positions. Minnesota's Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen were the highest-ranked running back and defensive end, respectively. The Lions did not receive a top vote-getter, as New York's Victor Cruz beat out Calvin Johnson at wide receiver.
Brandon Marshall, Henry Melton, Lance Briggs and Robbie Gould are likely to be in the discussion for the final Pro Bowl roster. Players on teams competing in the Super Bowl are not eligible, so perhaps this will be a moot point if Chicago can make an unlikely run.

White Sox: Avisail Garcia leaves game early with sore left knee

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AP

White Sox: Avisail Garcia leaves game early with sore left knee

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia left Wednesday night’s game with a sore left knee.

Garcia exited the contest in the top of the ninth inning when he was replaced in right field by Alen Hanson. The removal came two innings after a pickoff throw at first base forced Garcia to awkwardly dive back to the bag.

In the middle of a heavy rain, Garcia stayed on the ground for several seconds after New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez attempted to throw behind him.

The team’s best All-Star candidate, Garcia entered the contest hitting .321/.361/.516 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs in 305 plate appearances. Garcia was 0-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch before he left early.

Fire lose Open Cup epic in Cincinnati after penalties

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AP

Fire lose Open Cup epic in Cincinnati after penalties

CINCINNATI — A few days ago Dax McCarty was talking about the Chicago Fire trying to win every trophy they were competing for this season. The hopes of winning one of those trophies ended Wednesday night.

The Fire lost in penalty kicks to USL team FC Cincinnati after 120 minutes of goalless soccer. A crowd of 32,287 in Cincinnati, the second biggest crowd in U.S. Open Cup history, waited and waited and waited some more, but finally got what they wanted.

It was all about the goalkeepers before penalty kicks with the Fire’s Matt Lampson and Cincinnati’s Mitch Hildebrandt combining for 17 saves. Hildebrandt improved on his crazy good night by denying Nemanja Nikolic, Arturo Alvarez and Juninho in penalty kicks. Bastian Schweinsteiger was the only Fire player to convert a penalty in four rounds. Cincinnati missed its first penalty, but converted the next three.

"We wanted this competition," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "It is important for the club and it is important and a possibility for us to get trophies and win trophies for our team, for our club. But now we have to move forward and we have to think about playoffs. That’s all that is left and we have to now understand that this is something that we have to keep working hard. The team is doing well, but these kind of defeats are good red flags for the team to understand that we can not relax."

In regulation, the Fire huffed and puffed in the first half, but didn’t really create much danger in front of Cincinnati’s goal. At halftime, the Fire had 78 percent of the possession, but couldn’t manage a shot on target.

"First half we were a team that was dominating and having a lot of opportunities, but that’s what happens in these kind of games," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said.

Cincinnati’s game plan to defend deep and counter was stifling the Fire’s attack. The Fire only managed shots from outside the box that all missed the target in the first 45 minutes. Matt Polster had an open shot in the box following a corner kick, but it was deflected wide by a sliding defender.

"It’s very frustrating in a game like that to do everything I could for 120 minutes and play against a team that puts 11 guys behind the ball and then tries to counter," Lampson said. "They played it to perfection. Their goalkeeper stood on his head. He had an incredible game, but it’s just very frustrating that we couldn’t put one in."

The home crowd didn’t have much to cheer in the first half, but Lampson made the only save of the half when he came off his line to deny Danni Konig.

Both the atmosphere and the game livened up in the second half. Both teams had multiple quality chances and both keepers came up with big saves. Lampson saved the game to deny a breakaway for Jimmy McLaughlin in added time just before regulation ended.

In extra time, Cincinnati thought it had the go-ahead goal from Andrew Wiedeman in the 110th minute, but it was called back for a close offside call.

Hildebrandt and Lampson both came up with huge saves in the final minute of extra time to send the match to penalties. The two goalkeepers seemed to be dueling with crucial saves.

"I know Mitch, he’s a great guy," Lampson said. "It’s great to see him do well, but at the same time I want us to score. It’s not going to change how I do my job. I’m going to do it as best as I can and I had to do my job well tonight to keep us in the game so no real one-upmanship."

The Fire finished with 70 percent possession and 26 shots, 10 on target. Cincinnati had chances of its own with 20 shots and seven on target.

“We did a lot this game," Fire midfielder Juninho said. "We created a lot of chances. We didn’t put balls inside of the net on this night. This is one night to forget about it and focus on the next game.”