Fire preps for Combine, SuperDraft

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Fire preps for Combine, SuperDraft

This is the first big week of 2013 for the Fire. The club will announce its full regular season schedule on Wednesday, and coach Frank Klopas and his staff will begin scouting over 50 collegiate stars at the Major League Soccer Combine, which begins a four-day run on Friday at Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill, Fla.
The Combine leads into the Jan. 17 MLS SuperDraft in Indianapolis, and that figures to bring the Fire a player who can help immediately. At least the last two SuperDrafts did. The Fires first picks in 2011 and 2012 were defenders Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry. Neither needed much time to establish themselves as starters, and Berry the ninth overall pick of 2012 out of the University of Louisville wound up the MLS Rookie-of-the-Year.
MLS has already signed five players who will participate in the Combine, and two are Notre Dame products forward Ryan Finley and midfielder Dillon Powers. The other three poised to take roster spots on MLS clubs are Connecticut midfielder Carlos Alvarez, Boston College midfielder Kyle Becker and Maryland midfielder John Stertzer.
A day after the SuperDraft, Fire players gather at Toyota Park for two days of medical exams. Then theyre off to Florida for a 10-day camp at Ave Maria University near Naples. During that stretch the Fire will play two matches Jan. 27 vs. Florida Gulf Coasts college team at Ave Maria and Jan. 30 vs. the Columbus Crew at IMG Academy in Bradenton.
Once again the Fire wont have starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson for the first phase of preseason training. He was called up to the U.S. national team for a Jan. 7-27 camp that culminates with a Jan. 29 international friendly against Canada in Houston.
Johnson, a frequent callup by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, has earned his two national team caps in January matches. His first came Jan. 22, 2011, vs. Chile in Los Angeles and his second was Jan. 25, 2012, vs. Panama in Panama City.
The offseason has again been a busy one for Johnson. He spent last month training with England clubs. He was with Stoke City from Dec. 5-9 and Everton from Dec. 10-23.
Johnsons time with the Fire could also be limited in February, assuming hes called up for training for the first U.S. match in the next stage of World Cup qualifying at Honduras on Feb. 6.
After its Florida session the Fire returns home for a few days, then heads to Ventura, Calif., for the second phase of training. The third and final one is the four-team Carolina Cup competition in Charleston, S.C. It leads into the March 3 regular season opener, a road match against the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games

 

 

 

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling found out at 8 a.m. Sunday that he was starting for an ailing Corey Crawford. Considering he did this back in December for a few weeks, adjusting quick for one game was fine.

"It's kind of my job," Darling said.

And Darling, once again, did his job.

Darling stopped 30 of 32 shots and Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games. They're one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who made their splashy trade-deadline move in acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday. But the Blackhawks, thanks to veterans regaining their form, a top line finding its rhythm and youth consistently improving, are just rolling right along.

"We had a great start to the game. I thought Darls was excellent all night, great stretch there in the last 10 minutes where we fight through some tough shifts, particularly in the last couple of minutes in our end. But good win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the nice plays on the goals, it was kind of a comparable ending to the outdoor game: tied and about the same time they scored, we scored (tonight). Big two points for us."

Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winning goal with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks already knew they'd be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for at least a day or two when they found out Crawford couldn't go this morning. As Quenneville said Darling was strong once again, denying the Blues all but twice (a 2-on-1 goal from Magnus Paajarvi and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo).

Toews and Kane (power-play goal) staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early before the Blues tied it in the second. But late in the third period Anisimov took the feed from Artemi Panarin to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.

"I saw the puck all the way. It was easy to pick up," Anisimov said. "When you don't see the puck at the last moment and it comes, it's hard to receive and prepare for the next move. But I saw it all the way. Easy to prepare for the next move."

Speaking of next moves, do the Blackhawks make any more before the trade deadline. General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, following the acquisition of Tomas Jurco, that he'll keep talking and listening but likes the group he has right now. If Bowman's made moves it's for what the Blackhawks have needed, not because of another team's trades. The Blackhawks like what they have right now. Winning nine of 10 and continuing to trend in the right direction, they should be careful not to disrupt what they've got going.

"I think we're, as we've said lately, trending the right way. We're playing solid. I think all four lines are contributing in every which way," Toews said. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing right now. We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better too."