Bears

Fire Postseason Report

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Fire Postseason Report

Major League Soccer is only in the early stages of its postseason tournament, but all the votes for the individual awards and Best XI selections had to be in last week.
The leagues Coach-of-the-Year wont be announced until Nov. 27, but competition for it took an unexpected twist on Friday when a prime candidate Jesse Marsch abruptly resigned as head man of the expansion Montreal Impact.
My vote for Coach-of-the-Year didnt go to Marsch. Not meaning to seem like a homer, but my choice was the Fires Frank Klopas. Klopas took a team that had 10 wins in 44 games in 1 seasons under his predecessor, Carlos de los Cobos. Under Klopas the Fire salvaged a .500 season (9-9-16) in 2011 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this season. The disappointing last six games notwithstanding, Klopas impact on his club was unmatched. Its improvement was largely due to coaching, as Klopas rosters reflected a massive rebuilding job.
While Klopas was my clear-cut choice for Coach-of-the-Year, my choice for second was Marsch. Ironically, Klopas and Marsch were teammates on the first Fire team that swept the MLS and U.S. Open Cups in its inaugural 1998 season.
Marsch kept playing after that, and was a mainstay in the Fire midfield before finishing his career with four seasons as captain of Chivas USA. He clearly had the personality for coaching in his playing days, and his first head job with Montreal proved that.
The Impact had a slow start, not unusual for expansion clubs, but it challenged for a playoff berth before finishing 12-16-6 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Montreal owner Joey Saputo said the Impacts record had nothing to do with Marschs departure, said to be a mutual agreement by all involved in the decision-making.
"We did not share the same philosophy," said Marsch. "It wasnt easy, with the relationships weve built, but for me it was the right decision."
Montreal is way ahead of the rest of MLS in planning for 2013. The Impact leaves on Monday (Nov. 5) for 12-day tour of Italy, during which itll play two Serie A members, Bologna on Nov. 8 and Florentina on Nov. 15. The Impact is also the first MLS team to announce preseason plans for 2013. It will open camp on Jan. 19 and play in the Disney Pro tournament in Orlando, Fla., while training there from Feb. 9-23.
Two of Marschs assistants with Chicago ties will be on board at least for the Italian tour. Denis Hamlett, who took the Fire to the playoffs twice as its head coach in 2008 and 2009, and Mike Sorber, who completed his playing career in Chicago, were on Marschs staff.
As for Marsch, dont be surprised if he winds up coaching Chivas USA next season. That Los Angeles-based club struggled to a 7-18-9 record under the coaching of Robin Fraser this season. Only Toronto FC (which had 23 standings points) had few than Chivas USAs 30 this season.
WELCOME, COACH SERMANNI
The Fires season-ending 2-1 playoff loss to the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday coincided with the arrival of Tom Sermanni, who had just been named head coach of the U.S. womens team. He concluded the media rounds at Toyota Park in a pre-game meeting with reporters.
Sermanni, coach of the Australian national team for 11 years, has a tough act to follow. The U.S. women won the gold medal at the Summer Olympics in London and have been No. 1 in the FIFA Womens World Rankings since 2008.
"Most coaches come into a situation where a team is doing poorly and you want to try and turn things around," said Sermanni. "This is a different challenge, but the same principles apply. You just start from a much better base. You dont come into this job to make radical changes. You try to make the team even better, if thats possible. The most important thing is to try to keep winning.
Sermanni, in Chicago for just two days, will return to the U.S. in December to watch the last three matches of his new teams Fans Tribute Tour. Jill Ellis, U.S. womens development director for the Chicago-based U.S. Soccer Federation, will coach those matches before Sermanni takes over on Jan. 1. Hes hopeful a U.S. womens pro league will be in place for 2013.
"Some of our players might want the experience of going to Europe, and that could be beneficial in some cases," Sermanni said. "But if a new league gets up and running here my preference would be for them to play here.
CALLING FIRE HOPEFULS
The first step for the Fire in preparation for next season is the two-day open tryout, to be held for the fifth time at Bridgeview Soccer & Sports Dome on Dec. 14-15.
Fire coaches will select one player from the tryout to participate in the first phase of the 2013 preseason. Only once has the survivor of the open tryout actually made the first team. In 2011 Mount Prospect defender Pari Pantazopoulos did it. He beat out over 200 candidates from 19 countries in the open tryout, then survived all three phases of the preseason to make the team. He didnt crack the roster for 2012, however.
Registration for the open tryout is 150, and the deadline is Dec. 11.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, the team declining a club contract option for next year and making a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.