Spond finding his groove for Notre Dame

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Spond finding his groove for Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Type "Danny Spond" into Google and the third suggested result that comes up is "Danny Spond stroke."

Two months ago, Notre Dame's corner of the Internet was lighting up with rumors the junior linebacker had suffered a stroke, as whispers about the unknown condition that forced Spond into a hospital for a few days grew louder. Spond didn't have a stroke, though -- he had about as severe a migraine as possibly imaginable.

"That's definitely the worst pain I've ever experienced in my life," Spond said. "I would rather take a lot of injuries than a migraine, that's for sure. Not only scaring me to death with all the symptoms that came along with it, but just the absolute excruciating pounding I felt for a week, just constant.

"There are very few things that I felt that were that painful. I would never wish anything upon anybody that bad."

Spond didn't have any of the telltale migraine warning signs, and said doctors still don't know what caused it. He missed most of fall camp and Notre Dame's first two games, slowly working his way back into Notre Dame's defensive plans. But once he got that first hit out of the way, Spond knew he was ready to return.

"Mentally, I'm at a point where i'm fully relying on God to take care of me out there," Spond said. "Games like this, when we played Stanford and Michigan and Oklahoma this week, they're real physical games, there's a lot of head-banging. I've got all my faith in God."

Spond started against Michigan State and has taken off from there, recording 23 tackles, two passes broken up and an interception as Notre Dame's "dog" linebacker in its 3-4 defense.

"It definitely didn't start out the way I wanted to -- no one wants to start off the season watching, that's for sure, just being like a coach on the sideline," Spond explained. "But I knew once I got my chance to get back in there, once I could finally heal up, there was nothing that was going to stop me because I got a second chance, basically. That's just been my mentality since I returned."

A prep safety (and quarterback) in Littleton, Colo., Spond has had to adjust to playing a position that requires him to not only drop back in coverage but also to attack the line of scrimmage to stop running plays. He said that transition from pass coverage to run stopping has been the most difficult challenge to the position, but with experience has come confidence.

"I've gotten pretty comfortable with it now, and I feel like I know it better than anyone," Spond said. "It's taken time, there's no doubt about it, it's a tough position that has a lot of responsibilities and jobs. But the more you do it the better you get at it."

As BYU tried to mount a comeback last weekend, Spond broke up a key pass and intercepted Riley Nelson's final throw of the game, sealing a 17-14 win for Notre Dame. Brian Kelly was quick to point out his pass-coverage ability after the game, noting Spond stays on the field for Notre Dame's nickel package as a cornerback.

"Kid has been tremendous," Kelly added."He's been an unsung player on our defense and we appreciate him.I'm not saying you guys don't, but he's just played really, really well for us and he's not even coming off the field."

The next challenge for Spond comes against a powerful Oklahoma offense that's torched Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas for 156 points in its last three games. It's the first time a top-10 Notre Dame team has faced a top-10 opponent in nearly six years, and it carries with is legitimate national championship implications for the Irish. While Notre Dame's mantra may be that every game is big from here on out, this one does carry more weight.

"It's exciting," Spond said. "This is why you play the game, a top-10 matchup like this. It's the reason you're out here. It's fun."

Fire to resume U.S. Open Cup at packed house in Cincinnati

Fire to resume U.S. Open Cup at packed house in Cincinnati

Since arriving this winter, Dax McCarty has been the one to raise the expectations for the Chicago Fire and continued to do so after the Fire beat Orlando.

He raised the question to himself if it was realistic for the Fire to win MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield and the U.S. Open Cup and he said “Why not?”

The Fire’s U.S. Open Cup hopes take center stage on Wednesday when the team plays at FC Cincinnati in the round of 16. The Fire beat Saint Louis FC in the team’s first match in the tournament and even though Cincinnati is another USL team like St. Louis, things should be different.

Cincinnati is trying to showcase itself as a future MLS market and had a crowd of 30,160 for the 1-0 win against the Columbus Crew last round, which was a record for a U.S. Open Cup match played before the final. Another big crowd is expected when the Fire come to Nippert Stadium.

While cities like St. Louis and San Diego have run into trouble getting stadium deals done, Cincinnati has only had positive momentum so far in the expansion process. For example, there’s a story from USSoccer.com saying Cincinnati is the capital of American soccer.

Cincinnati’s ambition is clear in the statement from team president and general manager Jeff Berding when it was announced that Wednesday’s match will be broadcast on national TV.

“We look forward to showing off our great city as the hottest new soccer market to the rest of country,” Berding said.

To add to the spectacle of the match, a local brewery from each city placed a bet on the match in the name of charity.

The Fire brought mostly a first choice lineup to Missouri in the win last round. Of the Fire’s most common starters, only Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Accam, Nemanja Nikolic and Joao Meira sat out.

This time around Accam and McCarty will be out with their national teams. Nikolic did travel this time around.

The two teams met in the preseason, with the Fire winning 3-2 back on Feb. 22.

Cincinnati features a pair of former Fire players in Austin Berry (2012 MLS Rookie of the Year) and Corben Bone. Cincinnati is 5-5-5 in the USL this season, but as coach Alan Koch said after the team beat Columbus, “The beauty of cup soccer is anything can happen in one game.”

Cubs will make statement with trip to Donald Trump's White House

Cubs will make statement with trip to Donald Trump's White House

WASHINGTON — Within a matter of days last November, the Cubs won a staggering World Series for the first time in 108 years and Donald Trump won a scathing election to become the 45th president.

Those two surreal worlds will collide again on Wednesday when a group of Cubs get a private White House tour that can be interpreted as a political statement, something larger than this four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

This comes less than six months after the Cubs enjoyed an East Room ceremony that became the final official event at Barack Obama’s White House, at a polarizing time when speculation centered on whether or not the Golden State Warriors would skip the traditional photo op with Trump, not wanting to make an implicit endorsement after winning another NBA title.

“You’d have to talk to the Warriors,” manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday. “To go tomorrow is out of respect to the Ricketts family and to the office and the building itself. Listen, I like the United States a lot. I like living here a lot. And I like everything that it represents a lot.

“So when you get a chance as a citizen to get to go to the White House, you go. I think you go. Whether you like the person that’s running the country or not — out of respect to the office itself — you go.

“I don’t agree with all the other banter that’s going on right now, because I have a different perspective.”

Chairman Tom Ricketts and his brother, Todd, a board member who withdrew his nomination to become Trump’s deputy commerce secretary, brought the World Series trophy to Capitol Hill on Tuesday and did a meet and greet with Illinois Congressional staffers at the Russell Senate Office Building.

Within the Ricketts family/Cubs board of directors, Pete is Nebraska’s Republican governor and Laura was a superdelegate and a major fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein is also active in Democratic circles.

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Maddon also plans to attend a luncheon on Wednesday with young Republicans organized by Congressman Lou Barletta, an old buddy from growing up in Hazleton, Penn., and an early Trump endorser.

“It’s not as ceremonial as the last one was, going there as the World Series champions,” Maddon said. “It’s more based on the Ricketts family relationship and the crowd that’s going to the White House.

“The Ricketts family’s been tied in there really well ... so wherever Mr. Ricketts would like me to go, I’m going to do (it). Mr. Ricketts and the Ricketts family has been good to all of us, so part of that is that.

“The other part is whenever you have a chance to go to the White House, I think it’s easy to say yes out of respect to the office and the building itself.”

Maddon didn’t know if meeting Trump would be on the itinerary and said he understood if some players passed on the invite.

“I don’t have any rules to begin with,” Maddon said. “I just want you to run hard to first base. As long as you run hard to first base, they can make up their own mind whether they want to go to the White House or not.

“Furthermore, not having to wear a suit, I think, is the best part of this whole trip, because, to me, to have to dress a certain way to impress somebody, my God, nobody would ever fail. So I’m all about all of the circumstances right now.”

Maddon didn’t sound at all concerned about the optics of visiting the White House at a time of travel bans, sub-40 percent approval ratings and investigations into the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia, or meeting with a president who compared Chicago to Afghanistan.

“I like living here a lot,” Maddon said. “I like this country a lot. And I would much prefer living here than some of the other places that adopt different methods of government.

“I think sometimes that gets confused when people want to take a stand and not really realizing actually what we have, which is a lot better than most every place else.”