Cubs

Catching up with former Fire striker Chad Barrett

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Catching up with former Fire striker Chad Barrett

Saturday, April 16, 2011Posted: 5:00 PM

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com

When the MLS schedules are released, few, save for the supporters of Sporting Kansas City, circle the matches against the Chicago Fire. But every team knows when the Los Angeles Galaxy come to town.

David Beckham and Landon Donovan are Major League Soccers stars, filling stadiums all across North America. Like the Pele and Beckenbauer-led New York Cosmos of the NASL, the Galaxy are the driving force of the league nearly as large as the league itself.

After adding strikers Juan Pablo Angel and Chad Barrett in the offseason, the Galaxy are again favorites to win the MLS Cup in November.

In the meantime, the Galaxy is still trying to gel as a team. Injuries and suspensions will affect head coach Bruce Arenas lineup on Sunday. The Galaxy traveled to Chicago without Landon Donovan (knee injury), David Beckham (suspension yellow cards) and Juninho (suspension red card).

Barrett, who scored 17 goals in 82 appearances with the Fire between 2005 and 2008, did travel with the team, and talked about his new squad, the Fire and MLS referees at the Galaxys pre-game media day in the ritzy Sax Hotel. Thanks Beckham.

Q: Back in Chicago, new team, hows it been thus far for you?A: Its been good, you know. Its been kind of a learning experience, learning how to gel with all of my new teammates, on and off the field. Theres a lot of good players here; theres a much higher caliber. Competing for jobs is much tougher. Ive accepted that. Its not easy to get a starting spot, keep a starting spot on this team, so it makes you work everyday that much harder.
Q:Its a little different being in a place like this a hotel lounge that appears to have been designed by a 17th century French king and having a pre-game media day, as opposed to Toronto and even Chicago.A: This doesnt hold a candle to what it would be like if Landon and Beckham were here...You have stars on this team, the faces of the league people want to hear about what they have to say, how they prepare for games is how they have been doing it in the highest leagues in the world.

Its important for them to see day in and day out, what we do, so they dont think its all glitz and glamour out there on the field. We stay in, like you said, these nice places to stay in, but rest is just as important as game times are. Coming here and getting proper rest, proper relaxation that you need, especially when you are playing three games in 10 games, all on the road. Its very tough.
Q: You guys come into the season, and its almost an expectation to win MLS Cup. That has to be a bit different in its own regard. A: You mentioned MLS Cup, and at the beginning of the season, we do set long term goals, but this team is really good that we feel we can go pretty much anywhere and take three points away. Thats been a difference than other teams I have been on in the past, where youre hoping to win your games at home, tie the games on the road, and maybe get a couple wins in there. But this team has a firm belief that when we go to these places, we should be able to take three points out.

I feel the past two places we went, DC and Toronto, I think we got robbed in DC and then in Toronto, we had the chances to put that game away too, but we didnt take advantage. Weve been playing very well defensively...we have good depth on this team. Especially on this road trip, with the injuries and red card issues that weve come up with, people have done a very good job to step up.

The final goal is MLS Cup. Theres an expectations, but theyre expecting us to win every game every weekend, and thats an expectation that Im OK with.

Q:Back-to-back games in cities that youve played in. Thats just a weird scheduling quirk, isnt it?A: Im kind of getting everything: I saw my family in DC, went home to Toronto and back to my first home, here in Chicago. Seeing a lot of people, lot of friends... counting all my cards this one trip.

I got the start in Toronto, and everything you try to do is try keep your spot on this team. I dont know what Bruce has in plan for us on Sunday, but Im sure whatever he puts out is going to get it done.
Q:No one really knew what to expect from this Fire team going into the year. Theyre at the bottom of the table now, but theyve played fairly well. Whats the game plan?A: Theyre not as bad of a team as is represented in the standings. Theyre a team that can attack fast. It seems like they were down and out of the game last night, down 3-0. They had a nice little comeback, got it to 3-2. I thought they could have pushed for another goal, but Portland did well to get another one.

Theyve got a lot of new players...good leaders, in Logan Pause. Theyre a fairly young team. I think its a good thing to play this team early in the year, to capitalize on the disarray in the mindset that they have.

I dont think any team has the advantage when it comes to the rest aspect of it. I think were both going to be playing with some tired legs out there. Thats where the thinking aspect is going to take over in the game...I think theres some holes in their team that they can exploit, and I think that we can get three points.Q:LA Galaxy is one of the deepest teams in the league. Is Sunday an opportunity to go out there and show that this isnt two guys and a couple of new players?A: We have a lot of faces. We have Juan Pablo, Beckham, Donovan, three of the most heralded players in MLS. Its very easy to get cast in the shadows in that, in the public. But on the field, you toss all fame and fortune is aside and we all play our hearts out for each other.

The veterans do a great job, no matter how big or small they might be...We keep a very tight locker room. Thats what needs to happen to be successful. Thats how it was when I first came to Chicago. We had Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, C.J. Brown we had a bunch of older guys who led by example and by voice.

Q:The big topic of conversation, and its been coming out of your camp, is cards and refereeing. Has it reached a level of overall frustration with your squad? It seems like youve been the most vocal about it. A: The league came to us before the season and they said that they would have to bring in some new refs because of more games. Its kind of like youre playing against two oppositions. It feels like were playing against the other team and were playing against the refs. Its not just us its every game Ive watched. It seems like there has been a red card in at least every game. I havent looked at the stats, but I would imagine that the red cards and the cards in general are up almost two-fold.

It kind of feels like theyre taking too much control over the game. They dont need to protect us that much. Were not fragile, were not pieces of glass we can take a hit.

It sucks though. Its just not part of the game you want to see, a referee becoming the star of the game, taking away points from you, that you earned, like what happened in DC. Whether they decide to change the way they think, or whatever its not up to us.

The Fire will host Barrett and the Los Angeles Galaxy Sunday at 3 p.m. at Toyota Park.

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

The Cubs lost an entirely forgettable game on Tuesday night, dropping the second of their four games against the NL East-leading Braves by a score of 3-2. They left four men on base, only managed four hits, ran into two outs, and made one error in a game that was over well in time for a Clark Street nightcap, or three. 

What was memorable about Tuesday night was the performance of Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect who was making his first major league start. The final line: 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, one run, four walks and four strikeouts. It’s certainly not the prettiest line you’ll see in tomorrow’s box scores, but the 24 year old passed the eye test with flying colors. 

“Everything was good - he was outstanding,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “I just think he hit a well there at the end. We just have to get him more used to that. Listen, he’s been injured in the past, he’s coming back - you’ve got to be real sensitive to the number of pitches and workload you put on him, because you can see how good he’s going to be.”

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Alzolay, whose first pitch of the game was crushed 413 feet into the left field bleachers for a leadoff homer, courtesy of Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. It would prove to be the only hit and run that Alzolay allowed on the night. 

“It’s just one pitch,” he said. “You have to keep working - the game continues. I was just starting the game, so if you lose your mind in that situation than you’re not going to last a lot of innings.

“Even after the home run, he came right back and said, ‘I’m fine’,” Maddon added. “Then he went up and got three really good hitters out. I liked the mound demeanor, we’ve just got to get him a little further along in regards to being stretched out.”

After coming out flat with his secondary pitches during his 4-inning relief appearance on June 20th, Alzolay flashed better command and execution of both his curveball and changeup. Half of his strikeouts came on the curveball - one to get left fielder Austin Riley in the 2nd and one to get Acuña in the 3rd. After throwing 13 changeups in his debut, Alzolay double that number on Tuesday (27). 

“I’m feeling really confident throwing the pitch in any count,” Alzolay said of his changeup. “Tonight I threw it a couple times when I was behind in the count and I got a good result after that, so I’ll just keep on throwing it.

“For us to get confident at something, you have to practice, you have to execute it, and you have to use it in the game,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who plated both of the Cubs’ two runs with a double in the 4th. “For him to be able to throw the changeup for a strike, and strikeout people, it’s really good - especially at his age.”

Maddon couldn’t answer when Alzolay would make his next start. With Kyle Hendricks eyeing a return around the All-Star break, there would seemingly be a few more opportunities ahead of the rookie. Given what he showed on Tuesday night, it’d be hard to argue against it.

"He can be really good in the big leagues," Contreras said. "He still needs to make adjustments like all of us, but with the confidence he has, the ability he has, and the way he prepares before the games, it's going to take him a long way."

Tim Anderson helped off field with ankle sprain, will be reevaluated Wednesday

Tim Anderson helped off field with ankle sprain, will be reevaluated Wednesday

White Sox fans saw a sight they hoped they'd never see Tuesday night.

Tim Anderson was helped off the field with an ankle injury in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, hurt while making a play on a ground ball on a wet night in Massachusetts.

The White Sox announced later in the evening that Anderson has a sprained ankle and that X-rays were negative. The team added that Anderson will be reevaluated Wednesday.

Anderson made an on-the-run throw to nab J.D. Martinez at first base, but a play that Anderson has made look fairly routine over the past couple seasons this time included a slip on the rain-soaked infield. The White Sox star shortstop fell to the ground in pain immediately. After having his ankle briefly checked by the trainer, Anderson was helped off the field, into the dugout and into the clubhouse.

The rain poured down on Fenway Park on Tuesday night. The start of the game was delayed a half hour, but the teams played through steady rains throughout, worsening playing conditions, something the White Sox and every team across baseball have had to deal with quite often this season.

The degree of Anderson's ankle sprain is unknown, but the sight of him coming off the field was a nightmarish one for the White Sox and their fans. A sigh of relief came with the team's update, which did not include the words "Achilles" or "tear."

Anderson has emerged as one of the faces of the franchise this season, earning AL Player of the Month honors after a sensational April and earning national attention for flipping his bat after home runs and his mission to make what he calls a "boring" game more fun. He's got a .317/.342/.491 slash line on the season.

Anderson is undoubtedly a core piece for the rebuilding White Sox, who can pen him in as their shortstop of the future as well as the present.

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