Fire acquire midfielder Larentowicz


Fire acquire midfielder Larentowicz

Thursdays Major League Soccer SuperDraft wont have much suspense for the Fire. The club traded its first-round draft choice on Wednesday in another indication the roster will be built differently for the 2013 season.

Last season the Fires key new acquisitions were three young foreign players Rafael Robayo, Federico Puppo and midway through the season Brazilian midfielder Alex. Robayo and Puppo didnt finish the season with the Fire and Alex was an only moderately successful replacement for attacking midfielder Sebastian Grazzini.

So, this time around the Fire has gone after MLS veterans. Javier Leon, president of soccer operations, took forward Maicon Santos from D.C. United it the first round of the MLS re-entry draft and later added midfielder Joel Lindpere from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for an international roster spot.

On Wednesday, though, came the biggest new acquisition Colorado Rapids midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. The Fire got the respected veteran along with the No. 30 pick in Thursdays SuperDraft in Indianapolis but had to give up their first round pick No. 11 overall, along with allocation money and a 2013 international slot.

Sounds like a good deal for the Fire, though. Larentowicz has played in the MLS Cup final three times and came out on the winning side with the Rapids in 2010 his first year with that club.

Larentowicz, 29, was only a fourth-round draft pick by the New England Revolution after playing collegiately at Brown. He played for the Revs (and on two MLS Cup finalists) from 2005-09 before being sent to Colorado in a trade that has Chicago tie-ins. In that deal Larentowicz and Wells Thompson went to the Rapids in exchange for Cory Gibbs.

Gibbs retired in the offseason after his 2012 campaign was limited to three games before he was forced to undergo major knee surgery. Thompson was a late season pickup by the Fire when the club was successfully bidding to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Larentowicz played in 96 matches (95 of them starts) in three seasons with the Rapids. He had 14 goals and two assists and played every minute of four playoff games in 2010 that resulted in Colorado claiming the MLS Cup with a 2-1 win over FC Dallas.

"I had three great seasons in Colorado, Larentowicz said in a statement released by the Rapids. "I leave with no hard feelings and will always reflect fondly on our championship year.

Later Larentowicz said he is "happy for a new challenge ... It feels good to go to a place where you're in their plans. It's something I look forward to being a part of.''

The Rapids were reluctant to give him up.

"Parting ways with Jeff was not an easy decision for us, said Paul Bravo, Colorados technical director." But we gain a lot of roster flexibility with this trade as well as the chance to get another young talent through the SuperDraft.

Leon described Larentowiz as "a hardnosed player who has consistently been one of the best midfielders in MLS."

Colorado wasnt the only MLS club trading for better position in Thursdays draft. New England sent its No. 4 pick to Toronto FC to claim the top overall pick, suggesting one player participating in this weeks Combine in Florida made a huge impression.

The downside of the deal is that the Fire doesnt figure to do as well in the SuperDraft as it did with its first-round picks of the last two years. Defenders Jalil Anibaba (2011) and Austin Berry (2012) became starters almost immediately and Berry was last seasons MLS Rookie-of-the-Year.

Following the draft Fire players will gather in Bridgeview for two days of medical exams, then depart on Sunday for the first phase of preseason training at Ave Maria, FL.

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

Morning Update: Bulls win season opener; World Series returns to Wrigley

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.