Blackhawks

Fire travel to San Jose on Saturday

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Fire travel to San Jose on Saturday

The Fire has made three significant announcements since its 1-0 loss to Englands Aston Villa in Saturday nights international friendly at Toyota Park. None figure to have an effect on the next match, a road battle with the high-flying San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Most noteworthy of the latest developments is the club's scheduling of a second such international match, which may well be a more popular attraction than the first. The Fire announced Wednesday that four-time Mexican first division champion Club Santos Laguna will come to Bridgeview on Sept. 8.
While Aston Villa was on the rebound from an off-season in the English Premier League, Santos Laguna is riding high in Mexico. The club beat Monterrey 3-2 on aggregate to take its league tournament and also placed second in the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League.
Santos Laguna's roster features Oswaldo Sanchez, the veteran goalkeeper for Mexico's national team, and striker Hercules Gomez, who has done time with the U.S. nationals. Gomez also played for the Los Angeles Galaxy, Colorado Rapids and Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) in Major League Soccer.
Last season the Fire's second friendly was against the immensely popular Guadalajara Chivas, the Mexican side winning 1-0 in a spirited match.
On the pitch the Fire welcomed Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald. A 10-year veteran with teams in Belgium, the Netherlands and England, MacDonald has long been reported heading to the Fire. His last club was Beerschot AC of Belgium, where he had 15 goals in 82 matches. During his long career in Europe the 27-year old MacDonald scored 47 goals in 217 matches.
"We have followed Sherjill's career over the course of the last year, and he adds to our attacking options," said Javier Leon, president of soccer operations for the Fire. "He's a professional on the field and in the locker room."
MacDonald will occupy a Designated Player spot with the Fire. The last to hold that slot was Uruguayan forward Federico Puppo. He was loaned to Defensor Sporting Club of the Uruguayan league to set the stage for MacDonalds arrival.
Designated Player spots are usually reserved for high-profiles players. The Fire's previous DPs were Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who made a big contribution for parts of three seasons, and Nery Castillo and Freddy Ljungberg, who did not.
Puppo didn't, either. He played in 12 matches across MLS and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competitions, starting only two. He had a goal and an assist and was more recently hampered by an ankle injury. It's doubtful MacDonald will make an immediate impact, either. He needs time to improve his fitness before hell likely play in an MLS match.
The Fire hasn't given up on the 25-year old Puppo, who joined the club on Jan. 11 after playing for another Uruguayan side, Danubio FC.
"This loan is an opportunity to provide Federico with more consistent playing time," said Fire coach Frank Klopas. "We look forward to keeping a close eye on his progress while he's playing in Montevideo."
The Fire (9-7-4) played its last MLS match on July 18, a 1-0 road loss to the New York Red Bulls, and will resume league play against powerhouse San Jose (13-5-4). The Fire will be without a key player. Midfielder Marco Pappa will serve a one-game suspension for yellow card point accumulations.

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.