Berry, Pause awarded MLS honors

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Berry, Pause awarded MLS honors

The Fires playoff run may be over, but Mondays start of Major League Soccers awards began with two honors given to Chicago.

The Fire won the first two individual awards, with defender Austin Berry named Rookie-of-the-Year and captain-midfielder Logan Pause earning the Individual Fair Play Award.

Berry, out of the University of Louisville, beat out a former college teammate to become the third Rookie-of-the-Year in Fire history. Nick DeLeon of D.C. United was the runner-up, but wound up far behind Berry in the voting.

"Nicks a very special player," said Berry. "It was good to see a buddy do just as well in the league. We had a friendly competition."

Berry was the sixth player in Fire history to be a finalist for Rookie-of-the-Year, but the only two to win it before him were defender Carlos Bocanegra in 2000 and striker Damani Ralph in 2003. Bocanegra went on to play for some top clubs in Europe and captain the U.S. national team. Ralph moved to a Russian club after playing for the Fire, but his career has been hampered by injuries.

As for Berry, hes ready for a break with the Fire done with its brief postseason training period after the club was eliminated by the Houston Dynamo in the Knockout Round of the playoffs.

"Ill be taking a long break, maybe a couple weeks, but its up in the air as to when," said Berry. "As a rookie youre not ready for this many games. Basically a college season is three-four months."

With the Fire, though, the season started with preseason training in January and encompassed 34 MLS regular season matches, one U.S. Open Cup match and two international friendlies before coming to a competitive close on Oct. 31. Jalil Anibaba, a fellow defender and first-round draft choice in 2011, alerted Berry as to what his first professional season would be like.

"He gave me advice because he went through the same thing," said Berry. "With the season so long, it was mentally draining."

Berry figured to play behind two veterans with international experiences in Cory Gibbs and Arne Friedrich when the season started. Gibbs, however, was lost to season-ending knee surgery in the third game and Berry was thrust into a starting role. He immediately proved worthy of it, scoring a goal in his first start.

Finalists for the awards, which will be presented periodically leading into the MLS Cup final rematch between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Dynamo on Dec. 1, were determined by votes from media, MLS players and MLS club management based on regular season performance. Three rookies were finalists, with Berry and DeLeon going one-two and Vancouver forward Darren Mattocks finishing third. Berry garnered more than half the votes.

Berry was the third Fire rookie to score in his first start and he played every minute of his 28 games, breaking the club record for consecutive starts by a rookie set by Bocanegra.

Pause, meanwhile, took the Individual Fair Play Award, which was based on objective criteria such as fouls committed, cards received and games and minutes played as well as subjective evaluation of sportsmanlike behavior.

In his 10th MLS campaign, Pause was a starter in 31 of his 32 appearances. He committed only 11 fouls and had no cards. He missed just two matches after suffering two broken ribs and pneumothorax in a match against Philadelphia on Aug. 12.

The MLS Humanitarian-of-the-Year in 2009, Pause also served on the board of the directors for the Chicago Fire Foundation, the non-profit arm of the club.

Unfortunately, these will be the last individual awards the Fire will receive in 2012. The club had no other finalists in the other categories.

White Sox will be without closer David Robertson until Sunday

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White Sox will be without closer David Robertson until Sunday

BALTIMORE -- The White Sox feel like they’re in the best position possible to handle the temporary loss of David Robertson, who they’ll be without until Sunday.

The White Sox closer has been placed on the bereavement list to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, who passed away earlier this week after battling cancer.

Robertson -- who has eight saves in nine tries and a 0.87 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings this season -- closed out Wednesday night’s four-run win over the Toronto Blue Jays even though it wasn’t a save opportunity. He joined his family on Thursday, which allowed the White Sox time to promote both Daniel Webb and infielder Carlos Sanchez. Sanchez replaced Robertson on Thursday while Webb joined the team on Wednesday after Miguel Gonzalez was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte.

“We knew a few days ago, so I thought he handled it great,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “As tough as the news is, he knew he was going to need three days. He was with us for a couple of days after he got the news. He pitched in a game and gave us the opportunity to kind of maneuver a little bit. For him to get through this, all the way around it was the best you could hope for.”

The White Sox have utilized a 13-man pitching staff for a big chunk of their current stretch, which includes 19 games in 19 days. But with an off day around the corner, the White Sox chose to go back to a 12-man staff and call upon Sanchez, who could be necessary if any of their four games against the Baltimore Orioles are rained out.

Though Nate Jones is a likely option at closer, Ventura didn’t commit to how he’d manage his ‘pen in Robertson’s absence. He also listed Matt Albers and Zach Duke as potential options. And, Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka have experience in the role dating back to the 2014 season.

Jones picked up his first career save during the team’s last homestand.

“We just talked about treating it just like any other inning, no matter who it is,” Jones said. “We have to close out the sixth, we have to close out the seventh. Even though it’s the final three outs of the game, it’s a little bit different. A lot of people put emphasis on it. But that’s what we’re going to try and do -- just treat it like it’s the whatever inning.”

The White Sox bullpen has been outstanding this season. The group leads the major leagues with a 1.32 ERA. Over the past nine games, White Sox relievers have only allowed two earned runs in 24 2/3 innings (0.73 ERA).

“Those guys have handled it as well as you can,” Ventura said. “They feel for Robby. In a lot of ways they want to help him out as well. Robby is a good teammate and part of this is being able to flow with it. I think these guys are going to step up. That’s what you do.”

Not another no-hitter, but Jake Arrieta remains Cubs ace in every way

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Not another no-hitter, but Jake Arrieta remains Cubs ace in every way

The no-hitter drama lasted about two minutes on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field. Milwaukee Brewers leadoff guy Jonathan Villar made contact with Jake Arrieta’s fifth pitch (95 mph) and knocked it into left field for a soft broken-bat single. The Cubs wouldn’t have any Johnny Vander Meer flashbacks.

Arrieta still continued to press his case to be a repeat Cy Young Award winner, a Game 1 starter in the playoffs and the recipient of a seven-year megadeal worth somewhere north of $200 million. But so much can happen between now and the end of the 2017 season, which means the Cubs have to maximize this two-year window to win a World Series with Arrieta.

Speaking in full paragraphs at his locker for almost 15 minutes on Tuesday, Arrieta had already answered and dismissed the questions about performance-enhancing drugs and his metamorphosis into one of the game’s best pitchers.

The muted clubhouse TVs showing ESPN and MLB Network still had the talking heads running with that chemistry debate for the next two days. To be honest, on some level it felt like Arrieta enjoyed the attention and wanted to get this off his chest.

One week after no-hitting the Cincinnati Reds, Arrieta responded with a low-stress 7-2 victory over the Brewers. This felt like a total mismatch, Arrieta vs. a rebuilding Milwaukee team that is so much closer to the beginning of a five-year rebuilding plan than the end. Ryan Braun – an admitted PED user – got the boos before his at-bats at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs only needed Arrieta (5-0, 1.00 ERA) to throw 92 pitches and pulled him for pinch-hitter Jorge Soler with a four-run lead and runners on the corners in the fifth inning, trying to play the long game.

The front office and coaching staff obviously won’t root against a no-hitter, but that 16-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds was exactly the kind of situation the Cubs outlined in spring training, how they didn’t need to ride Arrieta so hard and could keep him fresh for October after throwing almost 250 innings last year.

Arrieta – who gave up one run across five innings – saw the end of his consecutive quality-starts streak (24) and scoreless-innings run at Wrigley Field (52.2). The Cubs have still won his last 18 regular-season starts and don’t expect anything to throw their ace off his game.

Arrieta got ready for the biggest start of his life – last year’s National League wild-card game – by trolling Pittsburgh Pirates fans on Twitter and telling them the blackout atmosphere at PNC Park “doesn’t matter.”

Arrieta has become a fashion model, signing endorsement deals with SAXX underwear and the Mizzen+Main clothing line. He says he finds the PED accusations to be “flattering.”

If the Cubs keep up this best-in-baseball pace (16-5), Jake will become a legend in Chicago.

“I haven’t seen him change a bit,” said manager Joe Maddon, who last year compared Arrieta to a male Jane Fonda. “He really handles those particular moments when he’s confronted really well, because he’s very matter of fact.

“He’s very self-confident. He knows who he is. So when he answers the questions, he can answer them in a genuine manner and feel really good about himself.

“Wouldn’t we all like to be like that? It’s a pretty good way to live. And I think he’s got it down. He takes care of everything about himself. So I’m all about Jake. We all are. We support everything he does and says.”

Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

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Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

John Goossens endured a hectic March.

On top of signing a new contract with a new team in a new country and league, the Chicago Fire midfielder had to travel back to his home country, The Netherlands, to get his visa. The long transatlantic trip forced Goossens to miss the season opener.

In the next match in Orlando, Goossens started and earned an assist on a long clearance that David Accam ran onto and scored for the Fire's only goal in a 1-1 draw. He went 73 minutes in that match, still his longest appearance of the season.

In Goossens' first home match against Columbus, a hamstring injury forced him to leave the match at halftime. The injury didn't cause Goossens to miss any games, but it did hamper his fitness and limited his minutes. He was already catching up after joining the team in the middle of the preseason and then missed the opener.

“It was a tough month for me," Goossens said. "I had some traveling back home for my visa and it was hard. I had some problems. I was in Orlando, I start feeling the hamstring and then in the game against Columbus at home after 45 minutes it was better to stop because I had too much problems with it."

After the Columbus match on March 19, an off weekend due to an international window gave Goossens time to recover, but he came off the bench the next two matches. He started the match against Montreal on April 16, his first start since the injury, and played 58 minutes. Despite coming off early, Goossens said he felt fully fit.

The midfielder drew some attention after a spectacular long-distance volley goal in a preseason scrimmage against the University of Portland. He finished with two goals and an assist in five preseason matches and appeared to be a solid candidate to replace Harry Shipp as an attacking midfielder for the Fire.

However, he hasn't had the influence on matches that he would like to so far.

“I can do way better,” Goossens said. “I think it’s for the whole team. We are not happy with the results. We are working really hard for it. You just need wins to be satisfied. For me personally I have to do better and I’m working on it everyday. In my opinion if you work hard everyday the good moments will come to you so we will see.”

Goossens said he has had little trouble settling in with the team and to the league, but admitted the long travel is something that takes getting used to. In the Dutch Eredivisie, where Goossens started his career, the only long flights would be for European competition, which Goossens has never played in. In May the Fire will have road trips to Vancouver, New York Red Bulls and New England in a span of eight days and the team will stay on the road for the duration of the trip.

“I have to get used to it, the flights and things like that," Goossens said. "It’s hard, but since the day I came here you know about it and you have to prepare yourself for it. Until now I feel fine. It’s going to be a really long season. Somewhere in the summer, August or September, there will be a point that you start to get tired, but it’s mentally. It’s our job, we have to take care of it. You have to take care of yourself and your body.

"For me it feels like a big adventure. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be fine. I really enjoy and I’m having fun, that’s the most important thing.”