Bears

Fire, Dynamo draw in lightning-shortened match

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Fire, Dynamo draw in lightning-shortened match

Sundays 1-1 tie with the Houston Dynamo was like no other Fire game over the past 15 years. This one didnt last the full 90 minutes, and settling for only a draw and one standings point might well haunt the Fire down the road.Heavy rains and lightning around Toyota Park led to referee Geoff Gamble calling the match after 66 minutes. Gamble stopped play twice, the second time coming at 8:37 p.m. and the decision to call the match a draw was made moments later. The Fire players accepted the decision but didnt like it -- especially the two most prominent foreign stars."In Europe wed play the whole 90 minutes," said German defender Arne Friedrich, who made his Major League Soccer debut. "The pitch was perfect. We would have had no problem (playing), but it was up to the referees.""I never saw this in my life," said Mexican midfielder Pavel Pardo. "Its like theyre taking two points from us. Its hard for us to accept this, but these are the rules."Soccer matches are rarely delayed and even more rarely called because of the weather. Sundays was believed to be the first shortened match in MLS history, but it wasnt the first delayed by weather problems. FC Dallas and Los Angeles Galaxy players were taken off the field for an hour following a lightning attack in a match last season, but play was resumed and game eventually finished.New rules, and the use of lightning detectors, played a part in Sundays shortened match. MLS matches can now be declared final if one half is played, though every effort will be made to bring a match to its completion. Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich, handling post-game interview duties after head man Frank Klopas left quickly to tend to a family matter, didnt dispute the decision to call the match. It was made after Gamble consulted with other match officials, stadium officials and MLS officials."If you looked at the radar, there was nothing we could do. It was probably the right decision," Matkovich said.Like Pardo, Friedrich never played in a game like Sundays and hes in his 12th professional season. Fire captain Logan Pause, in his 10th MLS campaign, had played in one -- a U.S. Open Cup match vs. the Kansas City Wizards in 2006 at Toyota Park."That match was called, but we replayed it," Pause said.The Fire did dominate play against a Houston club that was without three of its starting midfielders, two sidelined by suspensions and the other by injury. But, the Fire had one horrendous defensive breakdown, which resulted in Will Bruins goal in the 24th minute. Playing against the wind in the first half, the Fire scored on Pauses fluke goal off Pardos free kick three minutes later and had the wind at its back in the second half when the game was called."We were very aggressive. If we had kept going with this game I think we would have won," said assistant coach Leo Percovich."As players, especially playing at home, we would have loved to have the 25 minutes that were left," said Pause. His goal, only the third of his 231-game MLS career, was hardly a thing of beauty."Pavel hit a free kick that I actually tried to get out of the way of," said Pause. "Chalk it up to old age, not being quick enough. It hit me square in the back, went up in the air (then off the crossbar) and into the back of the net. It was funny how it happened, but that sums up my goal-scoring

Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record

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USA TODAY

Unfinished Bears job a 'bitter pill' for John Fox, but the legacy lies beyond just the W-L record

When John Fox succeeded Marc Trestman in 2015, neither he nor the Bears were looking at the situation and Fox as any sort of “bridge” hire – a de facto interim coach tasked with winning, but just as importantly, developing and getting a team turned around and headed in a right direction.

The heart of the matter is always winning, but in the overall, the mission statement also includes leaving the place better than you found it. Fox did that, which is very clearly the sentiment upstairs at Halas Hall as the Bears move on from Fox to Matt Nagy.

“It would’ve been nice to see it through,” Fox said to NBC Sports Chicago. “That’s kind of a bitter pill but you sort things out and move forward.

“I do think it’s closer than people think. We inherited a mess... but I felt we were on the brink at the end. I think that [Halas Hall] building is definitely different; they feel it. I do think that it was a positive.”

(Fox is probably not done coaching at some point, but that’s for another time, another story, and anyway, it’s his tale to tell when he feels like it. Or doesn’t.)

One measure of the Bears change effected: Virtually the entire Trestman staff, with the exceptions of receivers coach Mike Groh and linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, was jettisoned along with Trestman. By contrast, Nagy has retained not only virtually the entire Fox defensive staff under coordinator Vic Fangio, but also arguably the single most important non-coordinator offensive coach by virtue of position responsibility – Dave Ragone, the hands-on mentor of quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

Obvious but extremely difficult decisions are coming, as to shedding personnel and contracts – Josh Sitton, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young being among the most difficult because of tangible intangibles that no organization wants to lose.

“Bridge” results

Fox was never intended as a bridge coach but the results point to that function having been served. To exactly what end remains to play out under Nagy and the quarterback whom Ragone and Fox’s handling began developing.

Rick Renteria was one of those “bridge” guys for the Cubs, intended to be part of pulling out of or at least arresting the slide into the Mike Quade-Dale Sveum abyss, and leaving something for Joe Maddon. The late Vince Lombardi effectively served as that, at age 56 and for an unforeseen one-year for a Washington Redskins organization that’d gone 13 years without a winning season before Lombardi’s 1969 and needed a radical reversal. The culture change was realized over the next decade under George Allen and Jack Pardee, much of the success coming with the same players with whom Washington had languished before the culture change.

The Bears were in that state after the two years of Trestman and the three years of GM Phil Emery, certain of whose character-lite veteran player acquisitions (Martellus Bennett, Brandon Marshall) and high-character launchings (Brian Urlacher) had left a palpable pall over Halas Hall. A Fox goal was to eradicate that, which insiders in Lake Forest say privately was accomplished even amid the catastrophic crush of three straight seasons of 10 or more losses, and with injuries at historic levels.

What happens next is in the hands of Nagy and GM Ryan Pace, after a third John Fox franchise turnaround failed to materialize. Or did it? Because much of the core, from Trubisky through the defensive makeover, came on Fox’s watch, like him or not.

“You wish some things would’ve happened differently obviously,” Fox said, “but there was a lot positive that happened.”

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

Blackhawks ban four ejected fans from future home games

The Blackhawks have banned the four fans — who were ejected from Saturday's game against the Washington Capitals for their racist remarks towards Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly — from future home games.

On Monday, a Blackhawks spokesperson released this statement:

We have contacted the select individuals involved in the incident on Saturday to notify them that they are no longer welcome at our home games. Racist comments and other inappropriate behavior are not tolerated by the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks also wanted to remind fans that they can alert security at the United Center by texting the following to 69050: UCASSIST <SPACE> followed by the seating section, row and a brief description of the issue.