Preps Talk

Oduro not out for revenge, just a win vs. Dynamo

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Oduro not out for revenge, just a win vs. Dynamo

Dominic Oduro and Calen Carr were the principals in what turned out a huge trade a year ago. On Sunday theyll be rivals when Oduros Fire hosts Carrs Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park.

At the beginning of last season Oduro was an under-achieving striker for the Dynamo and Carr, injury-riddled in his five seasons with the Fire, was trying to recover from a concussion. So, the teams swapped players and -- in one of those rare quirks of fate -- both teams benefitted greatly from the deal.

Oduro had a breakthrough season, scoring 12 goals to become the first Fire player since Damani Ralph in 2004 to tally in double figures. He went on to become a finalist for Major League Soccers comeback Player of the Year, an award that went to Los Angeles David Beckham.

Carr eventually recovered from his concussion, playing in nine regular season games for Houston and starting four of them. He also started all four playoff games as the Dynamo reached the MLS Cup final before losing to Beckhams Galaxy. Carr had two goals in his 11 games for the Dynamo last season, the second a game-winner in postseason play.

Sundays match will hardly be the Oduro vs. Carr show, however. The Fire (1-1-1) and the Dynamo (2-1-0) are happy to be playing again, even though neither team will be at full strength. The Fire hasnt played since a 2-0 loss at Colorado on April 1. The Dynamo has been off since March 23, a 2-0 loss at Seattle. Houstons schedule called for seven road games to open the season.

The Fire will be without veteran central defender Cory Gibbs, who is out 4-6 months after undergoing knee surgery last week, and right back Dan Gargan (sprained toe) is listed as questionable. The Dynamo will line up without three starting midfielders. Colin Clark and Adam Moffat will serve suspensions and Brad Davis has a calf strain.

Sean Johnson is projected to make his first start of the season in goal for the Fire. He was held out of the first three games after lengthy training stints with Everton of the English Premier League and the U.S. under-23 squad. Coach Frank Klopas gave Johnson game action in two reserve team matches (both losses) and a friendly against the University of Louisville (a 1-0 win) during the long break from MLS action. Italian rookie Paolo Tornaghi was in goal for the first three MLS games.

Carrs role with the Dynamo is uncertain. He underwent meniscus surgery in the offseason and hasnt made a start yet, though he saw 36 minutes of action in two appearances off the bench.

Oduro, though, is more than ready to go. He carried his strong season in 2011 into a fast start in 2012 and claims the trauma of the trade is in the past.

"It was devastating when the trade happened," said Oduro, "but it turned out a positive for me. I was a little surprised when it happened. It wasnt a slap in the face, but it turned out a blessing in disguise. Its in the past, and I dont think about it any longer."

The Dynamo got good without Oduro, but the Fire finished strong, too.

"(Houston) went to the finals. Obviously they played their hearts out," said Oduro. "But Im more concerned with the Chicago Fire. Whats important is that we get three points at home. Im not thinking about it being against my old team. I cant dwell on that."

Neither team could get three points at home when they met last year. Both matches ended 1-1, with Oduro getting the tying goal in the second meeting. Like last season, the Fire is 1-1-1 after three games with a loss the most recent result. After that start last year the Fire went 11 games without a win, but did finish on a 7-2-1 run to just miss the playoffs.

This time the Fire had a 1-1 draw at Montreal and a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia before the loss at Colorado.

"We had everybody back from last year," said Oduro, assessing whats happened so far. "The first game was difficult, playing a new team with their home crowd. In our home game we played well. At Colorado we could have done better, but every day is still a work in progress for us. We cant be perfect all the time. Weve got to stay disciplined, stay focused throughout the game."

On a personal level, Oduro hopes to keep scoring to impress a new coach for Ghanas national team. Both he and fellow striker Patrick Nyarko hope to make that team after getting callups by the former coach, who was recently fired.

"At the end of the day my performance here will show if Im fit (for selection)," he said. "If I do my job here, the rest will be up to the (Ghana soccer) association. We know MLS is really young and getting there. They know about us, obviously, since they did call us up to the national team."

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”