Bears

CSN to provide alternative Spanish-language telecasts for three upcoming MLS/Chicago Fire games in July

CSN to provide alternative Spanish-language telecasts for three upcoming MLS/Chicago Fire games in July

First Chicago Fire Spanish-language telecast to take place Saturday, July 11 on CSN+ (Fire vs. Seattle Sounders FC)

Chicago, IL (July 6, 2015) For the first time in network history, Comcast SportsNet, the regional television home of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire, will be providing an alternative Spanish-language telecast for three upcoming Fire games in July that will air exclusively on CSN+ (NOTE: CSN+ is available in high-definition on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area/South Bend, IN & on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 285 in the Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets, along with being made available in DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, RCN, and WOW! homes among others; viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details). 

The first alternative Spanish-language telecast, featuring the Fire’s 97.5 FM ESPN Deportes announcing tandem of Rodrigo Arana and Raquel Ortiz, will take place on Saturday, July 11 at 7:30 PM CT, as the Fire host the Seattle Sounders FC.  CSN’s primary Fire announcers Dan Kelly and Kevin Egan will provide the call of the game on the main Comcast SportsNet channel location. 

“With such a wide, diverse, and dedicated fan base throughout numerous areas of the Chicago market, we are truly excited to provide these alternative Fire telecasts to the Latin community, showcasing the standout play-by-play and in-depth analysis from Rodrigo and Raquel,” said Greg Bowman, VP/Programming for Comcast SportsNet Chicago.

“We’re excited to work with our partners at Comcast SportsNet to televise our matches to a broader market,” said Fire COO Atul Khosla. “As Hispanics represent nearly a third of our fan base, this is a tremendous opportunity worth exploring.”

In addition to the July 11 game vs. Seattle, two additional Spanish-language games will air on the following dates in July on CSN+: Wed, July 15 (7:30 PM vs. Columbus) and Sat, July 25 (7:30 PM vs. New England). 

Comcast SportsNet’s match day coverage for all Fire games includes a live, 30-minute pre-game show, along with enhanced coverage on the network’s nightly sports news desk, SportsNet Central, which will include post-game reaction from Fire players and head coach Frank Yallop. 

From a digital standpoint, the Fire and Comcast SportsNet provide fans with enhanced platform content sharing on CSNChicago.com and Chicago-Fire.com, showcasing original video features, game highlights, special behind-the-scenes access, and numerous editorial pieces.  Plus, CSNChicago.com will also feature MLS and international soccer coverage via NBCSports.com’s “ProSoccerTalk” page.

Additional Bio Information:

Rodrigo Arana -- A native of Mexico City, Arana has been working eight years covering and broadcasting sporting events.  He spent seven years at Fox Sports Latin America, as play-by-play and color analyst for various soccer leagues, NFL, MLB, UFC, and Bellator, including events such as the Super Bowl, World Series and MX League Final.  He currently serves as the primary sports anchor for Noticiero Telemundo Chicago at 5:00 & 10:00 PM each weekday.

Raquel Ortiz --Ortiz began as a Spanish-language columnist for mlssoccer.com, covering the Chicago Fire, in June of 2005. Since then, she has extensively covered the Fire, contributing to its website and other media radio and television outlets.  She debuted with the radio broadcast team in 2006 and has served the past five seasons as the color commentator.  Prior to her work covering the Fire, Ortiz hosted and produced a sports-only radio show on Radio Arte 90.5 FM, managing the on-air website content for three years.  

Jordan Howard's newfound receiving skill expands critical realm of the possible for Bears' offense

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USA TODAY

Jordan Howard's newfound receiving skill expands critical realm of the possible for Bears' offense

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — The Bears desperately need more from Jordan Howard, which may sound greedy given that he has been one of the only offensive sparks of the last two seasons. And they may be getting it.

Through the early practices in Bears Camp ’18, the nascent offense of coach Matt Nagy and coordinator Mark Helfrich has been ... interesting. The intensity and conditions can be posited as factors, but the fact remains that the defense has intercepted a half-dozen passes and the pass rush has had Mitch Trubisky and the other quarterbacks frequently scrambling after coverage locked down their intended receivers.

Amid all that, something decidedly positive and mildly surprising was unfolding.

Rush-and-cover combos force check-downs to shorter routes, in particular running backs. If this were the Kansas City Chiefs offense under Nagy last year, that would have been Kareem Hunt, who caught 84 percent of the 63 passes on which he was targeted. If this were the Bears from 2008 through 2015, that would have been Matt Forte, who never caught fewer than 44 passes in any of his eight Chicago seasons.

But those were thens, this is now, and the featured back in the Chicago offense is Howard. That qualifies as a question for the developing Bears offense, an iteration of the West Coast system that is predicated on positive plays and ball control using the pass.

The reason is that Howard has developed two competing personas through his first two NFL seasons. One was that of a workhorse running back, the first in Bears franchise history to top 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. A model of consistency at 4.6 yards per carry.

The “other” Jordan Howard was the model of inconsistency — a running back among the worst pass-catchers at his position, low-lighted by the drop of a potential game-winning touchdown pass against the Atlanta Falcons last opening day. Howard dropped six of his 29 targets last season, according to Pro Football Focus. The year before he was determined to have dropped seven of his 50 targets.

An emerging 'new' Howard

But maybe that latter was then and this training camp is now.

The defensive pressure has, by chance or by choice, sent Trubisky passes toward Howard. The third-year tailback has responded with both efficient pass-catching and occasionally light acrobatic work, turning off-target throws into positive plays.

The results qualify as a significant positive from early camp. Howard is getting a clean-slate start from Nagy and running backs coach Charles London, and the hope is for a three-down back in the Hunt/Forte mold, which Howard can only be if he is an effective third-down option. His head coach thinks he is.

“Obviously, there’s this façade out there, there’s this notion that (Howard) is just a first- and second-down back, and I don’t believe that,” Nagy said. “Jordan can play all three downs. We’re going to do that. We’re going to use him. And we’re going to use other guys on first and second down when we need to.

“For us, it’s important for Jordan to know and for everybody on our offense to know that he’s a big part of this. This kid’s had a very successful career so far. We’re crazy as coaches and as offensive coaches if we don’t understand it and if we don’t use that to our advantage.”

Wanting Howard to be a three-down force and achieving that are two different things. For his part, Howard has worked to effect what can become a tidal shift for the offense.

“Definitely it’s important to me, just building my confidence more and more with catching the ball and working my body,” Howard said. “It’s definitely important to me. ... I definitely have improved my hand placement. I used to have my hands all over the place, but now coach London is working with me on my hand placement and looking the ball in.”

Possible impact on Howard

The impact of a multi-dimensional Howard cannot be overstated, and it could be overlooked in the buzz of all the other “weapons” the Bears brought in this offseason. It shouldn’t be.

Neither should the effect his enhanced skillset can have for Howard himself.

When the Bears’ offense broke out under Marc Trestman in 2013, finishing second in scoring, Forte caught 74 passes while posting his career-high 1,335 rushing yards on an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

Hunt as a rookie last season led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry while being the Chiefs’ third-leading receiver in both catches and targets. Howard was the only of the top eight leading rushers in 2017 with fewer than Leonard Fournette’s 36.

Tarik Cohen delivered 53 receptions. But Cohen is not a three-down back with the capability of the 200-plus carries that 17 of the top 19 running backs logged last year.

A critical element projects to be Howard’s conditioning and ability to take on a larger and more diverse workload. That limited him in his rookie season, when his usage in fourth quarters dropped at times because he simply wasn’t in requisite shape. The Bears hope that issue and the drops are behind Howard.

“He’s a patient running back,” Nagy said. “I think he as good vision so he’s patient, has good vision, and when you combine that with the power that he has, he finds ways to get yards. The nice thing for us is that we can move him around and do different things.”

Podcast: Main takeaways from the 5-game Cubs-Cardinals series

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Main takeaways from the 5-game Cubs-Cardinals series

Tony Andracki is joined by Phil Barnes, the senior editor of Vine Line, to break down the Cubs-Cardinals 5-game series at Wrigley Field that kicked off the second half of the 2018 MLB season.

The main takeaways from the weekend included an up-close look at a Cubs starting rotation is still struggling to find their footing almost 2/3 of the way through the season. 

The Cubs lineup and bullpen continue to be the saving grace of the team with the NL's best record and run differential, but there are serious question marks moving forward on the depth of the relievers as well as waiting for Kris Bryant to return to MVP form.

Check out the entire podcast here: