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Carlos de los Cobos: 'We need to improve'

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Carlos de los Cobos: 'We need to improve'

Friday, April 22, 2011Posted: 5:36 p.m.
By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com
The Chicago Fire players know what the problem is. Head coach Carlos de los Cobos knows why his team has lost three consecutive games. Now the team needs to fix the problem on the field. After a week of training, the Fire will have their first chance to prove the lesson has been learned Saturday at Toyota Park.

Cue the Houston Dynamo perennial Eastern Conference nemesis. The Dynamo, despite significant roster turnover, is as consistent as ever, earning eight points in their first five games. Houston poses a tough test this Saturday for a Fire team thats trying to find itself amongst consecutive disappointments.

We need to improve we need points, de los Cobos said. Its important not to lose the order, dont lose the patience in the field. I think the result, very soon, is coming. You can see all the matches that we have a chance to score, and we have some mistakes, and we are working about this, because there is no excuse.

Houstons game is one of strong, organized, tactical play. The Dynamo is a machine of efficiency that wont allow the Fire to let up focus for a moment. Sure enough, a lack of focus has been the Achilles heel for the young team. But De los Cobos isnt concerned. In fact, he expected some lulls.

We need to try to make our football, to try to apply it with style, to try to keep the ball, and dont be despaired, de los Cobos said. We know what is our problem. We are losing our focus, we are losing the concentration in some games, and in this situation if we add some important factors, because we have some young players...its normal that they make some mistakes. But all the players in the world make mistakes, but they need to stay easy, calm, because I think if we keep training and working like the players are doing, I have a big trust its changing everything for us.

De los Cobos might be changing up his lineup in preparation for Houston. The Fire backline could see wholesale changes. With Cory Gibbs likely out, Yamith Cuesta will likely start at centerback. De los Cobos also hinted that he might replace rookie fullback Jalil Anibaba with veteran Dasan Robinson.

I dont know if Anibaba will play, de los Cobos said. Maybe well start with Jalil or maybe Dasan. Dasan is an experienced player; I liked his two last matches when we played away against Seattle and Portland.

The Fire midfield might also see a change on Saturday. Daniel Paladini scrimmaged with the first team on Thursday, though de los Cobos wouldnt commit to him being in the lineup instead of Mike Videira on Saturday.

We need to improve in the aspect of creation, de los Cobos said. I dont know who is playing besides Logan, but maybe... another player like Paladini or Baggio Husidic. We need to improve about the creation.

Last week, against the Los Angeles Galaxy, de los Cobos replaced goaltender Sean Johnson with Jon Conway. The veteran Conway will be between the woodwork again on Saturday.

The experience of Jon is very important for the team, de los Cobos said. He is always supporting the other guys. His experience is so important for the young guys, the young players, because they give confidence to these guys. Everybody trusts a lot in Jon, and I think that the presence of Jon in goal is important right now.

Houstons offensive game is built around set pieces and size in the box, a test that Conway is well prepared to face. There are few in the MLS bigger than the stocky, six-foot-six Conway, and the goaltender uses all of his size to break through crowded boxes on corners and free kicks.

Its also Conways job to call out adjustments on the field. Conway, who made his eighty-ninth MLS appearance in the Fires 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, has a voice that echoes though Toyota Park, even with 18,000 fans cheering. That bellowing voice will be required again against Houston.

Obviously they have a lot of big boys, and do a good job of working the ball in from wide, Conway said. Im assuming thats what theyll do. Its just important just to give information to make sure these guys know whats going on, whats around them, and then they can make a good decision, an informed decision. So thats all Im trying to do, is make sure they get the information they need to do the right thing.

De los Cobos might also make a change up top. Forward Gaston Puerari has been substituted in his last two games and did not finish training on Thursday. Dominic Oduro, who was traded to the Fire from Houston in late March might see his first start in a Fire uniform against his former team.

Oduro couldnt, or more likely wouldnt, share any inside information regarding the Dynamo, but did call jokingly call Saturday a revenge game.

Oduro scored his first goal for the Fire late in last Saturdays game, sparking a late comeback bid for the Fire. While that bid failed, it did instill some confidence in the team heading into its next game.

Everything is possible, Oduro said. Even though they are organized, lets face it I dont think they can play a 100 percent focused game. Theres going to be a margin of error and thats where we have to, as a team, use that opportunity to penetrate into that error. Thats what were looking for.

The Fire take on the Houston Dynamo Saturday at Toyota Park. First kick is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Corey Crawford is BACK, are the Bulls legitimate playoff contenders?

Mark Lazerus and Hub Arkush join David Kaplan on the panel.

The guys discuss Corey Crawford’s return and what it means for the team’s playoff chances.

Khalil Mack misses practice again. The guys debate if it would be better to leave him out vs. the Patriots.

The latest on the MLB playoffs with controversy in Houston and gamesmanship by the Brewers.

Will Perdue and Kendall Gill join the panel to discuss Kris Dunn’s absence from the opener and the team’s playoff chances this season.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below.

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Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

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USA Today Sports Images

Three reasons why the Bears' offense should have success against the Patriots' defense

Every team will try to scheme against what its opponent does best. Not every team does it as well as Bill Belichick consistently has in his Hall of Fame tenure as the coach of the New England Patriots. 
 
This is what Belichick is famous for, beyond the five Super Bowl trophies and historic partnership with Tom Brady. That thing your team’s offense does best? He’s going to take it away. 
 
That can create a mental challenge for an opposing coach during the week. Do you focus on doing something other than what your offense does best because Belichick is going to identify and scheme against it, or do you try to accentuate what you do best so it can’t be taken away? 
 
“That’s that whole chasing the cat’s tail thing,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “All of the sudden you start out-thinking to yourself, ‘What the heck?’ That’s the mystique, and that’s what they do. They’ve earned that over time because of the success they’ve had. 
 
“When you don’t go too crazy with that and balance it and control what you can control. Then in the end, win, lose or draw, no matter what, you at least feel good you approached it the right way, and you weren’t, ‘Oh shoot, I should have done this. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.’”
 
When Taylor Gabriel and the Atlanta Falcons faced the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, everybody on that team knew Belichick would do what he could to take Julio Jones out of the game. But that didn’t make preparations any easier. 
 
“We knew he was going to take away Julio, but we didn’t know how he was going to do it,” Gabriel said. “So it’s just just something you kind of have to adjust to when you get in the game.”
 
Jones only had four catches in that game, and the Falcons were able to quickly adjust to how he was taken away — though it wasn’t enough to keep them from a historic collapse and ultimate overtime loss. 
 
Tight end Dion Sims played New England eight times during his four years with the Miami Dolphins, and came away with a healthy respect for the scheme and the players on that defense. 
 
“They’re fundamentally sound, they got good coaching over there, a good staff,” Sims said. “You gotta be prepared because they come out and they play their ass off.” 
 
But what should give the Bears confidence they can mentally and physically beat New England’s defense?
 
1. The Patriots’ defense isn’t what it once was
 
The way Bears coaches and players have talked about New England’s defense this week has been with reverence and respect. But lately, the Patriots’ defense production hasn’t quite equalled its reputation. 
 
Maybe it started with Nagy’s Kansas City Chiefs launching 42 points and over 500 yards of offense against New England in 2017’s nationally-televised season opener. Maybe Super Bowl LII, in which the Philadelphia Eagles ripped off 41 points with a backup quarterback, was another turning point. Or maybe the Patriots’ 43-40 win over the Chiefs on Sunday night, which looked more like a Big 12 game than an NFL game, further chipped away at that mystique. 
 
New England’s defense heads to Chicago ranked 18th in points allowed (24.7) and has allowed 400 or more yards of offense in four of six games this year. They’re 19th in defensive DVOA, though Pro Football Focus’ grades do peg this group fourth, behind only the Bears, Rams and Eagles. 
 
What this defense does well is take the ball away, with eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries critical in propping up a defense that isn’t good on third down (44 percent conversion rate, 25th) or in the red zone (68 percent, 26th). But as long as the Bears' ball security is better than its two-turnovers-inside-the-five-yard-line showing in Miami on Sunday, an offense that scored 48 and 28 points in its last two games should be in good shape. 
 
2. Multiple weapons
 
How Belichick schemes against a Bears offense that’s been explosive and productive in its last two weeks will be fascinating to see on Sunday. Maybe it’ll be Tarik Cohen, who Belichick said is “a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.” Maybe it’ll be making sure Taylor Gabriel doesn’t beat them deep (“The execution on that was like 99 out of 100,” Belichick said of Mitch Trubisky’s 54-yard deep ball to Gabriel against Miami). Or maybe it’ll be dropping seven or eight guys into coverage, spying Trubisky and forcing the second-year Bears quarterback to make good decisions and fit passes into tight windows. Or maybe it’ll be something else entirely. 
 
This goes back to the guessing game, though, and it’s one the Bears can’t allow themselves to play. 
 
“I think you can spend too much time on that,” Nagy said. “I look at that and I think I've said it before, it can be kind of like chasing the cat's tail. You've got to be careful of that and when you just start worrying about what you do — and of course here or there you might so something a little bit different — but if you just start doing things different because of one coach, now you've stopped worrying about just controlling what you can control and I haven't found too much success with that.”
 
The good news for the Bears, though, is they seem to have the multitude of weapons necessary to have success against a Belichick defense. Kansas City showed it on Sunday — when the Patriots took away Kelce, Kareem Hunt racked up 185 yards from scrimmage, while Tyreek Hill gouged New England for 142 yards on seven catches with three touchdowns.
 
So if the plan is to take away Cohen, that could lead to opportunities for Gabriel, or vice versa. Or if the plan is to drop seven or eight into coverage, that would give Jordan Howard an opportunity to carve out yards on the ground.  
 
“They utilize all their players, the backs, the tight ends, the receivers, the quarterback, they all have production, so if you take one away, they just go to the next guy, and that’s hard to defend,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of options on some of those plays, which guy is going to end up with the ball based on a quarterback’s decision, if it’s a check-with me type of play, bubbles and look passes and RPOs and things like that, it’s up to the quarterback to make the right decision and Trubisky’s done a good job of that. I think all those things, they keep getting better and they’re hard to defend.”
 
3. History repeating itself
 
In Nagy’s only meeting with New England as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator, his offense scored 42 points — and that’s a number that has resonated in the Bears’ locker room and practice fields this week.  
 
“You have to go into this game with confidence and know that we’re playing against a great group of guys who’ve been there, been to the Super Bowl and then they also have Tom Brady on the other side,” Sims said. “It’s important that we capitalize on everything and try to be mistake-free.” 
 
“What the defense is giving you is what the offense will take — what good offenses will do,” Gabriel said. “I feel like we have those type of minds up there in the booth and on the field with us to figure out what those guys are doing and how we want to attack it.”
 
The Bears’ offense is young, from the coach to offensive coordinator to most of the players that populate it. Beating New England, even if its defense isn’t what it used to be, would send a message around the league that the Bears are for real. Until the Patriots are dethroned in consecutive years, or even finish a season with fewer than, say, 12 wins, they’re still the Patriots.  
 
But while this team is young, it does have a handful of guys who’ve competed against New England on some of the NFL’s biggest stages. So expect guys like Gabriel, Burton and even Nagy to not allow this team to let facing the Patriots become daunting on Sunday. 
 
“It’s not difficult at all,” Gabriel said of avoiding thinking about that mystique. “Just like this team, we have the weapons to take advantage of those one-on-one matchups. I don’t care what defense you are, you’re going to have a one-on-one matchup somewhere unless you’re dropping everybody. So as long as you’re staying the pace and being confident in what you’re doing, I feel like we’ll be okay.”