Oduro not out for revenge, just a win vs. Dynamo

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Oduro not out for revenge, just a win vs. Dynamo

Dominic Oduro and Calen Carr were the principals in what turned out a huge trade a year ago. On Sunday theyll be rivals when Oduros Fire hosts Carrs Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park.

At the beginning of last season Oduro was an under-achieving striker for the Dynamo and Carr, injury-riddled in his five seasons with the Fire, was trying to recover from a concussion. So, the teams swapped players and -- in one of those rare quirks of fate -- both teams benefitted greatly from the deal.

Oduro had a breakthrough season, scoring 12 goals to become the first Fire player since Damani Ralph in 2004 to tally in double figures. He went on to become a finalist for Major League Soccers comeback Player of the Year, an award that went to Los Angeles David Beckham.

Carr eventually recovered from his concussion, playing in nine regular season games for Houston and starting four of them. He also started all four playoff games as the Dynamo reached the MLS Cup final before losing to Beckhams Galaxy. Carr had two goals in his 11 games for the Dynamo last season, the second a game-winner in postseason play.

Sundays match will hardly be the Oduro vs. Carr show, however. The Fire (1-1-1) and the Dynamo (2-1-0) are happy to be playing again, even though neither team will be at full strength. The Fire hasnt played since a 2-0 loss at Colorado on April 1. The Dynamo has been off since March 23, a 2-0 loss at Seattle. Houstons schedule called for seven road games to open the season.

The Fire will be without veteran central defender Cory Gibbs, who is out 4-6 months after undergoing knee surgery last week, and right back Dan Gargan (sprained toe) is listed as questionable. The Dynamo will line up without three starting midfielders. Colin Clark and Adam Moffat will serve suspensions and Brad Davis has a calf strain.

Sean Johnson is projected to make his first start of the season in goal for the Fire. He was held out of the first three games after lengthy training stints with Everton of the English Premier League and the U.S. under-23 squad. Coach Frank Klopas gave Johnson game action in two reserve team matches (both losses) and a friendly against the University of Louisville (a 1-0 win) during the long break from MLS action. Italian rookie Paolo Tornaghi was in goal for the first three MLS games.

Carrs role with the Dynamo is uncertain. He underwent meniscus surgery in the offseason and hasnt made a start yet, though he saw 36 minutes of action in two appearances off the bench.

Oduro, though, is more than ready to go. He carried his strong season in 2011 into a fast start in 2012 and claims the trauma of the trade is in the past.

"It was devastating when the trade happened," said Oduro, "but it turned out a positive for me. I was a little surprised when it happened. It wasnt a slap in the face, but it turned out a blessing in disguise. Its in the past, and I dont think about it any longer."

The Dynamo got good without Oduro, but the Fire finished strong, too.

"(Houston) went to the finals. Obviously they played their hearts out," said Oduro. "But Im more concerned with the Chicago Fire. Whats important is that we get three points at home. Im not thinking about it being against my old team. I cant dwell on that."

Neither team could get three points at home when they met last year. Both matches ended 1-1, with Oduro getting the tying goal in the second meeting. Like last season, the Fire is 1-1-1 after three games with a loss the most recent result. After that start last year the Fire went 11 games without a win, but did finish on a 7-2-1 run to just miss the playoffs.

This time the Fire had a 1-1 draw at Montreal and a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia before the loss at Colorado.

"We had everybody back from last year," said Oduro, assessing whats happened so far. "The first game was difficult, playing a new team with their home crowd. In our home game we played well. At Colorado we could have done better, but every day is still a work in progress for us. We cant be perfect all the time. Weve got to stay disciplined, stay focused throughout the game."

On a personal level, Oduro hopes to keep scoring to impress a new coach for Ghanas national team. Both he and fellow striker Patrick Nyarko hope to make that team after getting callups by the former coach, who was recently fired.

"At the end of the day my performance here will show if Im fit (for selection)," he said. "If I do my job here, the rest will be up to the (Ghana soccer) association. We know MLS is really young and getting there. They know about us, obviously, since they did call us up to the national team."

How White Sox tradition of Cuban players helped them land Luis Robert

How White Sox tradition of Cuban players helped them land Luis Robert

Before Luis Robert donned a White Sox jersey, before he signed his name on his new contract, before he even entered the room where he was to be introduced as one of the brightest stars in the White Sox rebuild, there were those who came before him.

Quite literally, Robert, the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder, was surrounded by his fellow countrymen who have worn the White Sox uniform prior. There was, of course, the legendary Minnie Minoso, former White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, current All-Star first baseman Jose Abreu and current top prospect Yoan Moncada, banners of all four players to the sides of the table where Robert sat with general manager Rick Hahn.

Saturday was the latest step in the White Sox rebuild, the team adding Robert to their list of big-time prospects that has fans drooling over lineups and pitching staffs a few years down the road.

But Saturday was also the latest step in a franchise tradition of bringing in Cuban players, a tradition that seemed to have helped the White Sox land Robert.

"The White Sox tradition for Cuban players was something that motivated me to sign with this team," Robert said through a translator during Saturday's introductory press conference. "It's something that made me feel comfortable.

"I feel proud because those players were examples for us in Cuba. For me now to be here wearing the same uniform as them is a huge honor for me."

Comfort seemed to be the biggest factor in Robert's decision to sign with the White Sox over other bidders. Hahn explained Saturday that the team had been scouting Robert since he was just 14 years old, and when asked what the most decisive factor was in this process, Robert said the White Sox showed the most interest.

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But there was something to continuing the team's Cuban tradition. Hahn said that Robert's talent certainly meant more than simply his nation of origin, but he said that the franchise's tradition helped with its pitch to Robert, a pitch that included a video with personalized messages from Abreu and Moncada.

"It was certainly part of our identity that we presented to him to help inform him about where we were and the level of success that we’ve had with similar type players," Hahn said. "We certainly felt that having a comfortable and welcoming environment for similar type players was going to help him reach as close as he can to his ceiling. Not saying he couldn’t reach it elsewhere with different environments, but we certainly felt we had a good nurturing developmental environment for a player with his background."

Part of that environment is Abreu, who was guiding Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field before Saturday's introduction, talking with him in the dugout and on the field.

Hahn said that Abreu relishes a mentoring role and that players like Abreu and Moncada have taken the initiative to welcome Robert into the organization.

"A lot of it comes from the players themselves. We don't need to hand them a phone and make them Facetime with each other. They've already been a little proactive on their own, and I suspect that will continue over the coming years," Hahn said. "Jose, as I'm sure he'll tell you directly, takes a great deal of pride in playing that mentor type role in the organization. He's certainly done it with Yoan ever since we acquired him and has already begun doing it moving forward with Luis. And I suspect Moncada will follow suit as well.

"So it perpetuates itself, it's something we can facilitate with our coaches, any of our culturalization people as the process unfolds. Obviously we have a strong history in this regard and have had some success doing it."

Whether Robert will have a career more similar to Minoso, Ramirez, Abreu, Moncada or even the heretofore unmentioned Dayan Viciedo remains to be seen. But one advantage he does have in his development is an organization with a tradition and environment to help him succeed.

No wonder he felt comfortable.

Nerve issue sends Tyler Saladino to DL, White Sox bring up outfielder Adam Engel

Nerve issue sends Tyler Saladino to DL, White Sox bring up outfielder Adam Engel

The White Sox will be without infielder Tyler Saladino for at least 10 days.

Saladino was placed on the 10-day disabled list ahead of Saturday's doubleheader with what the team called back spasms, though Saladino explained it's a nerve issue that will keep him on the shelf.

Saladino left Friday night's game, and he said he was experiencing soreness Saturday.

"It’s like a sciatic nerve related stuff. Kind of ruled the back out of it," Saladino said. "Going to try to find a way to get it to calm down."

Saladino said he's been dealing with minor issues over the past week but that it really flared up when he stepped on first base Friday night.

He explained that this is the first time he's ever dealt with a nerve issue like this and that he doesn't have much of an idea what to expect.

“Brand new. Nerve thing, never had anything like it before. It’s all brand new," Saladino said. "Just going to kind of take it, start with some treatment, see how it goes. Have no idea what’s going on.

“This right here kind of made me play a little bit cautious. You don’t really think about it when you’re out there playing. You’ve got enough adrenaline to take over. But feeling a little bit of a nerve thing kind of sat me back. It’s just in the back of your head. You don’t really know what’s going on. You feel a little bit of stuff that’s going on that’s brand new, doesn’t feel right."

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In a corresponding roster move, the White Sox brought outfielder Adam Engel up from Triple-A Charlotte.

Engel had a slow start to the season in his first handful of games, but he's been swinging a pretty hot bat of late. In his last 30 games, he's hitting .286 with a .370 on-base percentage and eight home runs.

"Just made an adjustment with my hands, just kind of picked them up a little bit," Engel said about what changed. "I have been kind of getting them behind me, kind of putting me in a tough position to hit. I just picked them up and I feel like I’m in a better position."

White Sox manager Rick Renteria had plenty of praise for the newest addition to his roster.

“Tremendously gifted outfielder, runs real well. Was starting to put together a pretty good run at the Triple-A level. Hit his seventh or eight home run last night," Renteria said before Saturday's first game. "Has been playing very well, continues to develop. You’ll probably see him here soon in the outfield, get a game. Talking to (bench coach Joe McEwing) and the staff, we’ve talked about trying to get guys in as quickly as possible so they get their feet underneath them. He’s been doing very, very well. He’s a very gifted outfielder with potentially the ability to hold his own at the plate.”