Fire

Fire look to get back to winning ways

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Fire look to get back to winning ways

Fire coach Frank Klopas had just one basic reaction to his teams poor showing before its first sellout home crowd of the season last week: forget about it.

Thats undoubtedly good advice. The 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy wasnt indicative of the Fires play of late. Prior to the shaky showing the Fire (8-6-4) had a four-game unbeaten streak.

"Our movement and being dynamic and being off the ball wasnt as sharp, Klopas said of the dropoff in his teams performance." You have to move on, and there will be setbacks. Its how we react to them. Youre going to have games like that throughout the season.

An immediate recovery is possible on Saturday when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to Toyota Park. The Whitecaps should be travel-weary; they played their fifth straight road match on Wednesday, losing 3-2 to lowly Toronto FC. That was the third meeting of the season for the Canadian rivals, but the first in Major League Soccer play. They met for the Canadian Championship in a two-game aggregate goal playoff, Toronto FC winning that title in the same matchup for the second straight year.

Still, Vancouver (8-5-6) could be the most improved team in Major League Soccer. As an expansion team in 2011 the Whitecaps finished 6-18-10 and were last in the Western Conference. The Fire, though, couldnt beat Vancouver last season, going 0-1-1. Saturday marks the only meeting of the clubs this regular season.

Therell be a Chicago flavor to the visitors. Vancouver general manager Tom Soehn developed his soccer roots in the Chicago Kickers youth programs and was a defender on the Fires MLS and U.S. Open Cup champions in the augural 1998 campaign and was a Fire assistant coach from 2001-03. John Thorrington, injury-riddled in six seasons with the Fire, has kept his career going with Vancouver, which acquired him in the expansion draft. Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit was on the Fires first Premier Development League team in 2001. Jay Nolly, a reserve goalkeeper for the Fire, was a Whitecaps netminder last season and earned the first MLS shutout in the history of the Vancouver franchise.

While Klopas doesnt have an injury issue to deal with this week, he does need to find the right playmaking midfielder. He used Chris Rolfe, Alex and Rafael Robayo in the role once manned by the departed Sebastian Grazzini against the Galaxy. None could get the Fire going.

There also could be a change in the back. Klopas didnt use usual right back Dan Gargan against Los Angeles, going with Jalil Anibaba there instead. It was an Anibaba handball that led to Robbie Keanes penalty kick that provided the only goal the Galaxy needed.

Klopas isnt pointing fingers for last weeks loss, though.

"It wasnt just one or two players, and we have to move on, he said. "In the end its important to be where we set our eyes in the beginning (back in the playoffs after a two-year absence). This is a strong group.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.