Chicago Fire

Thursday Score visit: Of death scenes & paper cuts

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Thursday Score visit: Of death scenes & paper cuts

It wouldnt be 10 a.m. Thursday without checking in with The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM The Score 670, Danny Mac and Ben Finfer this morning sitting in for Spiegs.

A little fun with great death scenes from movies, which the guys were chatting up when I joined them. The shark getting it in Jaws by Ben was a good call, as was Jack Dawson sinking into the depths of the North Atlantic.

My big three? Denzel Washington being taken out at the end of Training Day (richly deserved, as Mac correctly stated); Sonny Corleone getting his at the toll booth; and Val Kilmers Doc Hollidays one-shot takedown of Michael Biehns Johnny Ringo in Tombstone (Johnny wasnt a daisy after all).

The J.J. Watt problem was of more pressing interest for the week, and my sense of Watt continues to be a version of Dan Hampton and Julius Peppers, a defensive end with the power, strength and talent to drop inside and at any position to create a mismatch. Peppers has done it since he came to Chicago; Hampton went from left end to nose in the 46 (he also was defensive player of the year at D-tackle); and Watt at 290 pounds and 6-6 does the same.

Solution? There is none. Jury-rigging your offense to deal with that is a mistake, especially for an offense still forming. The Bears absolutely must run the ball (the Texans are good enough to dial Brandon Marshall down) and that is what they want to do and do well. This will be about whether the Bears can do their thing well.

Where is the bleeding coming from?

My thought to Mac was that the Bears offense is not hemorrhaging; its bleeding from a dozen paper cuts. A Kellen Davis drop cut then a Gabe Carimi breakdown cut then a Jay Cutler ball-hold cut then. You get the idea.

And coordinator Mike Tice has had some cuts. Abandoning later calls in the game plan because of a first-play sack, occasional lapses Tice knows what he wants to do and what wins. His role model as much as any is legendary Chuck Knox, and that means make your passing game truly lethal through ground supremacy.

Tice is excellent at looking for input and fresh ideas. Sometimes he just needs to trust that his have been pretty good over the past couple years and go with that.

And the pick for this weekend? Mac hadnt been able to make a pick so I wont, either. My preseason call was a loss to Houston and win at San Francisco; have to look at the first of those really close in the next day or two.

With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

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With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

There aren’t many easy games left on the Fire’s schedule, but Saturday’s game in Philadelphia appears to be one of the more winnable games remaining even if it is on the road.

The Union have a respectable 7-4-3 home record, but are out of the playoff race and are winless in six straight. The Fire hope to pick up a second straight road win, keep pace with New York City FC and stay ahead of red-hot Atlanta in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The game will be televised on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

While on paper the game is winnable, the Fire will once again be significantly shorthanded in midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho are both out with injuries. Schweinsteiger will miss his third straight game while Juninho will be out for two in a row. The Fire beat D.C. United 3-0 with Dax McCarty pairing with Drew Conner in central midfield last weekend.

With Joao Meira returning from injury as a sub in that win against D.C., coach Veljko Paunovic could run a similar lineup to the one from last week or elect to go with three centerbacks in an altered formation. Either way, the Fire remain without key pieces during a time of year when the team wants to be hitting its peak with the playoffs just over a month away.

“You want to get your top 11 group on the field together so they can get games, but if that’s not the case then you can also get guys experience and you can get younger guys in games that mean something and that matter because there’s no substitute for experience,” McCarty said. “You can’t replicate that in training. Guys like Drew Conner, guys like Djordje (Mihailovic). Those guys that are going to be very important for us in our playoff push and our depth heading into the playoffs.

“That’s the reason why depth is so important in MLS because while you would love to be able to count on your first 11 every single time you step on the field, (but) that’s not the case. I think we’ve seen that throughout the whole season. I don’t think we’ve had our first 11 group on the field together for months so you want depth and obviously it’s important to get guys healthy."

The extent of Schweinsteiger’s injuries hasn’t been clear. He had a bruise on his calf from a collision during the match in Montreal on Sept. 2, but also has a thigh injury. Schweinsteiger appeared to be nearing a return last week when he was running and working out in training separate from the group, but he was not at training on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, which implied a setback.

When asked about Schweinsteiger’s status, Paunovic has remained coy.

“Basti is very important for the team,” Paunovic said. “We want him as soon as possible. We will provide all the help that we can. As soon as we can have him back it’s going to be very important for the team. Also during that time we have guys who are prepared and ready and want to step in.”

Everyone knows he is a key absence, but the team has a solid 2-1-3 record without him this year.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see the positive attributes that he brings to the team,” McCarty said of Schweinsteiger. “He’s been one of our best players and obviously he’s a focal point for the way that we do things, not only defensively, but attacking as well. He’s a guy who teams have to account for whenever he’s on the ball. His vision, his ability to make plays within the game, knowing what the game needs and what time, you can’t substitute that. It makes my job easier, it makes our strikers’ jobs easier, so it’s a big loss not having him on the field.”

Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union

Where: Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, Penn.)

TV: CSN + (channel finder)

When: Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (14-9-6, 48 points), Union (8-12-9, 33 points)

Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

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Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

On this edition of Nerds in Sports, we talk with io9.com senior editor Rob Bricken.

Rob explains how he juggles being a fan with being a ‘professional’ nerd, how he came to run io9.com, plus his theory on why Rey’s parents are in Star Wars may shock you.

Kevin Anderson and Michael Piff co-host. We are Nerds. In sports.

Listen to the Nerds in Sports Podcast here.