Cubs

Fire lock up Nyarko

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Fire lock up Nyarko

The Fire, in keeping with the general policies of Major League Soccer, gave little in the way of details when it comes to players contracts. Theres no missing the significance of Thursdays re-signing of forward Patrick Nyarko, however.

Nyarko, 26, has become a Fire mainstay and the club was determined to keep him. Nyarko said the new contract covered two seasons with an option for a third.

"Hopefully itll be for a lot more than that, said Nyarko. "Its a good deal, and I like the organization. There wasnt any doubt that we would come to an agreement. It was a question of when."

"Keeping Patrick with the Fire was a big goal of ours over the last year," said head coach Frank Klopas. "With his speed and ability to change pace, hes show to be one of the most threatening attackers in MLS over the last few years and is key to our attack."

Nyarko hasnt been much of a goal-scorer in his four-plus seasons in MLS. He had four of his seven in the 2009 season, but was a much more productive player in the two seasons after that. In 2010 and 2011 he combined for a team-leading 19 assists.

Hell play in his 100th MLS match in the Fires next game, April 15 vs. Houston at Toyota Park. Over the last four seasons hes played in 90 matches, more than any other Fire player.

"I just want to help this team get back to its winning tradition," said Nyarko. "The last couple years we got away from that a little bit. Now my immediate goal is to help us get into the playoffs."

Drafted as a forward, Nyarko was a first-round pick (seventh overall) in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft after getting 31 goals and 24 assists in 57 college games for Virginia Tech. In his early years with the Fire, though, he spent most of his playing time as a winger on both sides of the field.

That changed midway through last season when Klopas paired him with striker Dominic Oduro. Both players are from Ghana, and they had instant chemistry. Their productivity spurred the Fire to a 7-2-1 finish in the last 10 games of last season, which in turn created high expectations for this campaign.

"I had talked to him only four times before he came here," said Nyarko. "I had heard of him, but we really starting talking once I came into the league. As hard-working as he is, that helped us."

Nyarkos performance down the stretch with the Fire led to his getting his first callup to Ghanas national team, and he played 45 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Chile in a Feb. 29 friendly in Chester, Pa. He hopes thats not the end to his time with his national team.

"That call was a little unexpected, but it worked out," he said. "It was a good experience, and Im hoping for more callups but that team is getting a new coach. The old one was fired, and well have to wait until a new coach settles in."

Be sure to check out highlights of Patrick Nyarko over at the official website of the Fire.

Watch: Kris Bryant discovers that no one in Austria knows who Kris Bryant is

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RED BULL

Watch: Kris Bryant discovers that no one in Austria knows who Kris Bryant is

Baseball is America's favorite pastime. Not so much for the nations of Europe, however.

Kris Bryant, the Cubs' star third baseman and one of baseball's biggest names, took a trip across the Atlantic for his honeymoon and discovered that he's not quite as famous in the Old World as he is stateside.

Red Bull posted this video of Bryant interviewing locals in Salzburg, Austria, locals who aren't very familiar with baseball — or Bryant.

Bryant and his wife, Jessica, also got to wear lederhosen and visit a castle, getting the full Austrian experience.

So maybe Bryant isn't the most recognizable guy in Austria. If he's ever looking for reaffirmation of his popularity, though, all he has to do is walk the streets of Wrigleyville. Guessing there will be a few more people there who know his name.

Bears grades: No rookie 'freebies' for Trubisky, mid-game lulls reflect poorly on coaches

Bears grades: No rookie 'freebies' for Trubisky, mid-game lulls reflect poorly on coaches

QUARTERBACKS: B-

Mitchell Trubisky’s final stat line was fine, and merely "fine:" 18/30 (60 percent) for 179 yards and a touchdown, and six rushes for 53 yards and a lost fumble (that turned into a Detroit Lions touchdown). There were some outstanding throws and decisions made by the rookie, like his touchdown toss to Adam Shaheen and his athletic, instinctive 19-yard scramble on fourth and 13 in the dying embers of the fourth quarter. But there were too many poor decisions and missed throws — for example, two incompletions were the result of low, inaccurate passes (to Benny Cunningham near the goal line in the first quarter and to Daniel Brown on third and six midway through the third). Trubisky was only sacked once after being dropped 16 times in his previous five games, which was an encouraging improvement. He did some good things but admitted after the game he has to be better, and being a first-year starter isn’t an excuse: “You don’t get a freebie because you’re a rookie,” Trubisky said. 

RUNNING BACKS: A

Jordan Howard sparked a big day with a 50-yard run in the first quarter, and averaged a staggering 8.3 yards per carry (15 attempts, 125 yards). Outside of that explosive run, Howard was efficient and effective, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and getting in the end zone on a well-blocked and well-executed 12-yard run. Tarik Cohen played 31 snaps — he played 31 snaps combined against the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers — and was effective both with the ball in his hands and as a decoy to draw coverage toward him on others. His 15-yard touchdown run and subsequent leap into the end zone tied the game in the fourth quarter, and he caught four of six targets for 44 yards. 

WIDE RECEIVERS: D+

There weren’t any egregious mistakes from this group, but Dontrelle Inman, Kendall Wright, Tre McBride and Markus Wheaton combined for 13 targets, seven receptions and 82 yards. That fewer than half of Trubisky’s pass attempts were intended for his wide receivers is disappointing, yet it's not surprising given the struggles this group has had all year. Inman ran a good in-cut route and connected with Trubisky on it to set up Connor Barth’s missed game-tying field goal, which was the highlight of the day for this unit. 

TIGHT ENDS: B+

Shaheen caught all four of his targets for 41 yards and a touchdown, and displayed some impressive chemistry with Trubisky, his roommate when he arrived in Chicago in the offseason. The Bears need to continue to involve their second-round pick more in the offense — him not being on the field during that last-ditch drive in the fourth quarter was strange given his production, and the wide receivers' lack of production, in the game — and he blocked up Howard’s 12-yard touchdown run well. Daniel Brown caught two of his five targets for 23 yards, including a 13-yard catch on third and 10 that sprung the Bears’ opening-possession scoring drive in the first quarter. 

OFFENSIVE LINE: B+

This group kept Trubisky upright, allowing only that one sack and scattering four pressures on Trubisky’s 30 pass attempts. But it was the run blocking from this group that stood out: Beyond the explosive ground gains it set up, the Bears only had two negative running plays on Sunday. Dinging the grade here are two penalties on Kyle Long, especially an unnecessary roughness flag that negated a 15-yard Trubisky scramble right before he lost that fumble for a touchdown. 

DEFENSIVE LINE: B

Detroit wasn’t able to run the ball, with Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah and Jamal Agnew combining for 62 yards on 21 carries (a shade under three yards per carry). But the defensive line didn’t do enough to disrupt Matthew Stafford’s rhythm, with Mitch Unrein recording the only sack and one of two hurries (Eddie Goldman had the other) from this unit. 

LINEBACKERS: B

Nick Kwiatkoski made the biggest play of the day for the Bears’ defense with his sack-strip of Stafford in the first quarter, and Christian Jones chipped in with a sack as well (Jones’ sack was key in that it forced the Lions to kick a field goal, keeping the Bears’ deficit within one possession in the fourth quarter). Both inside linebackers played well, the outside guys didn’t make as big of an impact: Leonard Floyd had four tackles, two hurries and one tackle for a loss, Pernell McPhee had three tackles and Sam Acho had one tackle and one hurry. The lack of a pass rush from the guys expected to be pass rushers kept Stafford comfortable in the pocket, allowing him to pick apart a Bears’ secondary that didn’t have its best day on Sunday. 

DEFENSIVE BACKS: D-

Kyle Fuller missed a tackle on Detroit’s first drive and was benched for Marcus Cooper in the second quarter. Cooper struggled mightily, though, playing too soft of coverage on T.J. Jones on a third-and-15, allowing a conversion that sparked a Lions scoring drive that ended with Marvin Jones burning Cooper with a double move for a 28-yard touchdown. Prince Amukamara was flagged for a pass interference penalty for the second consecutive week, too (last week’s against Green Bay was a questionable penalty at best, to be fair). Fuller re-entered the game and dropped an interception, too. The lack of game-breaking plays and the 120.2 passer rating compiled by Stafford combine to earn this unit the lowest mark on the team from Sunday. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

Barth’s missed 46-yard game-tying field goal wiped out some good things Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units did on Sunday. Explosive Lions punt returner Jamal Agnew returned three of Pat O’Donnell’s four punts for only 23 yards, and he averaged 18 1/2 yards on four kick returns. But the Bears, as a team, couldn’t overcome Barth’s miss — and at the start of that drive, Cohen probably should’ve taken a knee in the end zone instead of returning the kickoff from five yards deep in his own end zone to the Bears’ 17-yard line. 

COACHING: D+

Dowell Loggains opened up the playbook for Trubisky (and Cohen), and the result was the Bears’ best offensive effort of the year. At times, this looked like a completely different offense than the one the Bears’ ran in the first 10 weeks of the season, with some zone reads, plenty of shotgun snaps and well-designed plays to spring a 24-point effort. But as John Fox said after the game, the Bears are still susceptible to “siestas,” with those mid-game lulls proving difficult to overcome. The Bears have played 10 games in 2017, and not one of them has been a complete, four-quarter effort. That bigger-picture look falls on the coaching staff, and has greater implications than some questionable personnel decisions (like why Shaheen/Howard/Cohen weren’t on the field for the two-minute drill in the fourth quarter).