Cubs

Winless April draws to an end for Fire

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Winless April draws to an end for Fire

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 10:59 p.m.

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com
The Chicago Fire extended their winless streak to five games and ended the month of April without a win for the first time in the franchises 13-year history after drawing with the Colorado Rapids 1-1 Saturday night in Commerce City, Co.

It was a difficult match, Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said postgame. I thought we played a very good first half, but I think it was a good match, difficult because both teams are having a difficult moment.

With the draw, Colorado ended their three-game losing streak, but extended its winless streak to four games.

Were going in for three points, Fire forward Dominic Oduro said. Even though the season is young, weve just been crawling on the table. Well take one point against losing a game right now its good start in a positive direction.

Despite the Rapids owning possession for more than two-thirds of the first half, the Fire dominated in early scoring chances, and netted the games opening goal in the forty-third minute. Marco Pappas third goal of the season was set up by a Gastn Puerari chipped lead pass to Oduro along the right sideline. Oduro, using his prodigious speed, outran his marker, Anthony Wallace, into the box, and made a centering pass to Pappa.

Oduros pass just beat Rapids defender Tyrone Marshalls sliding effort to clear, and a falling Pappa was able to direct his first touch into the back of the net.

Weve been working on this in practice, Oduro said. All I had to do was play the ball right to him and he did a great job in finishing.

Things didnt play out as easily for the Fire after the goal. A failed possession and a lapse in defensive form helped the Rapids equalize the game just after halftime.

After a failed counter-attack, a Fire turnover in its defensive third went to the most dangerous man on the pitch, Rapids striker Omar Cummings. Catching Fire defender Yamith Cuesta floating without a mark, Cummings slid the ball to Andre Akpan, who blasted a shot from ten-yards out, hitting the upper left corner of the net after Fire goaltender Jon Conways fingertips could not deflect the ball away.

The forty-ninth minute goal was Akpans first in Major League Soccer.

Both teams locked down on defense in the second half, but relied on its goaltenders to make big stops down the stretch. Conway, starting his third consecutive game for the Fire, made five saves in the game.

Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos used a five-man midfield against Colorado with captain and central midfielder Logan Pause out of the game with right hamstring injury. In Pauses absence, Pappa wore the captains armband Saturday.

The injury and formation shift gave Corben Bone and newcomer Daniel Paladini their first starts of the season. Bone went seventy-five minutes before being replaced by Orr Barouch.

Oduro, who played out wide Saturday, thought the five-man midfield helped the team stay compact in the middle and win more balls. His coach agreed, despite the games unfavorable outcome.

I liked the new formation, de los Cobos said. I liked it because my intention today was to have the ball, to keep the ball, because its important, when you have control of the game, you have to have control of the ball. These guys Bone and Paladini have this skill, this quality.

"I think Paladini was very important for us this game, de los Cobos continued. He was the balance of the team.

The Fire lost central defender Josip Mikuli in the thirty-ninth minute to a shoulder injury sustained in a collision with Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Mikuli went down because of the injury three times in the first half, forcing de los Cobos hand. Central defender Dasan Robinson replaced Mikuli and played a solid fifty-one minutes in relief.

The draw gave the Fire its sixth point through seven games. Chicago sits in eighth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of last-place Sporting Kansas City, which lost 1-0 to Red Bull New York Saturday afternoon.

The Fires next game will be May 7 against the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Park.

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?