Cubs

Carlos de los Cobos: 'We need to improve'

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Carlos de los Cobos: 'We need to improve'

Friday, April 22, 2011Posted: 5:36 p.m.
By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com
The Chicago Fire players know what the problem is. Head coach Carlos de los Cobos knows why his team has lost three consecutive games. Now the team needs to fix the problem on the field. After a week of training, the Fire will have their first chance to prove the lesson has been learned Saturday at Toyota Park.

Cue the Houston Dynamo perennial Eastern Conference nemesis. The Dynamo, despite significant roster turnover, is as consistent as ever, earning eight points in their first five games. Houston poses a tough test this Saturday for a Fire team thats trying to find itself amongst consecutive disappointments.

We need to improve we need points, de los Cobos said. Its important not to lose the order, dont lose the patience in the field. I think the result, very soon, is coming. You can see all the matches that we have a chance to score, and we have some mistakes, and we are working about this, because there is no excuse.

Houstons game is one of strong, organized, tactical play. The Dynamo is a machine of efficiency that wont allow the Fire to let up focus for a moment. Sure enough, a lack of focus has been the Achilles heel for the young team. But De los Cobos isnt concerned. In fact, he expected some lulls.

We need to try to make our football, to try to apply it with style, to try to keep the ball, and dont be despaired, de los Cobos said. We know what is our problem. We are losing our focus, we are losing the concentration in some games, and in this situation if we add some important factors, because we have some young players...its normal that they make some mistakes. But all the players in the world make mistakes, but they need to stay easy, calm, because I think if we keep training and working like the players are doing, I have a big trust its changing everything for us.

De los Cobos might be changing up his lineup in preparation for Houston. The Fire backline could see wholesale changes. With Cory Gibbs likely out, Yamith Cuesta will likely start at centerback. De los Cobos also hinted that he might replace rookie fullback Jalil Anibaba with veteran Dasan Robinson.

I dont know if Anibaba will play, de los Cobos said. Maybe well start with Jalil or maybe Dasan. Dasan is an experienced player; I liked his two last matches when we played away against Seattle and Portland.

The Fire midfield might also see a change on Saturday. Daniel Paladini scrimmaged with the first team on Thursday, though de los Cobos wouldnt commit to him being in the lineup instead of Mike Videira on Saturday.

We need to improve in the aspect of creation, de los Cobos said. I dont know who is playing besides Logan, but maybe... another player like Paladini or Baggio Husidic. We need to improve about the creation.

Last week, against the Los Angeles Galaxy, de los Cobos replaced goaltender Sean Johnson with Jon Conway. The veteran Conway will be between the woodwork again on Saturday.

The experience of Jon is very important for the team, de los Cobos said. He is always supporting the other guys. His experience is so important for the young guys, the young players, because they give confidence to these guys. Everybody trusts a lot in Jon, and I think that the presence of Jon in goal is important right now.

Houstons offensive game is built around set pieces and size in the box, a test that Conway is well prepared to face. There are few in the MLS bigger than the stocky, six-foot-six Conway, and the goaltender uses all of his size to break through crowded boxes on corners and free kicks.

Its also Conways job to call out adjustments on the field. Conway, who made his eighty-ninth MLS appearance in the Fires 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, has a voice that echoes though Toyota Park, even with 18,000 fans cheering. That bellowing voice will be required again against Houston.

Obviously they have a lot of big boys, and do a good job of working the ball in from wide, Conway said. Im assuming thats what theyll do. Its just important just to give information to make sure these guys know whats going on, whats around them, and then they can make a good decision, an informed decision. So thats all Im trying to do, is make sure they get the information they need to do the right thing.

De los Cobos might also make a change up top. Forward Gaston Puerari has been substituted in his last two games and did not finish training on Thursday. Dominic Oduro, who was traded to the Fire from Houston in late March might see his first start in a Fire uniform against his former team.

Oduro couldnt, or more likely wouldnt, share any inside information regarding the Dynamo, but did call jokingly call Saturday a revenge game.

Oduro scored his first goal for the Fire late in last Saturdays game, sparking a late comeback bid for the Fire. While that bid failed, it did instill some confidence in the team heading into its next game.

Everything is possible, Oduro said. Even though they are organized, lets face it I dont think they can play a 100 percent focused game. Theres going to be a margin of error and thats where we have to, as a team, use that opportunity to penetrate into that error. Thats what were looking for.

The Fire take on the Houston Dynamo Saturday at Toyota Park. First kick is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

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USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.