Bears

Fire releases regular season schedule

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Fire releases regular season schedule

Theres a new twist to the Major League Soccer schedule for 2013, released by the league and its member clubs on Wednesday.
Not only will the season start a week earlier than ususual, it will have a Revivals Week on March 16-17. Regional rivals will be paired at that time, with the Fire drawing Eastern Conference regular season champion Sporting Kansas City on March 16 in K.C.
Fans, though, may be more enticed by the Sunday matinee games. The Fire will play nine, five of them at Toyota Park. Only three mid-week games are on the schedule and in an interesting numerical coincidence -- the Fire will play 16 nationally-televised matches in its 16th season of existence.
The Fire has its earliest MLS season opener ever, at Los Angeles on March 3. Thatll be the first of 34 regular season battles, with 25 of them coming against Eastern Conference opponents.
Within the East the Fire will face seven conference rivals three times and two (New York and Toronto) twice. The latter two will be home-and-home series. In the others the Fire will have two home dates against D.C. United, Sporting Kansas City, the Montreal Impact and New England Revolution.
To balance things out the Fire will play two of three matches on the road against the Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union.
On the national TV front, the Fire will play on NBC Sports Network eight times, ESPN and ESPN2 once apiece, Univsion once and UniMas five times.
The opener will be the first of nine meetings against Western Conference foes, a road battle with the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy on March 3. The home opener is March 9 vs. New England, a good home opening opponent. The Fire is 2-0-3 in home openers vs. the Revs and is 9-3-3 in its 15 previous home debuts.
In addition to its schedule the Fire announced the winner of last months open tryout.
The lucky survivor from over 150 trialists is forward Samuel Archer, a 23-year-old Rutgers University product who owns dual citizenship in the U.S. and Jamaica. A member of the U.S. under-17 pool, he went through the New York Red Bulls Academy and had a tryout with the Colorado Rapids in 2012.
After failing to crack the Rapids roster he spent time with the United Soccer League members Harrisburg City and Wilmington.
Archers chances of making the Fire roster are slim. Only one of the previous four open tryout winners succeeded Pari Pantazopoulos in 2011. He got into one match, in the U.S. Open Cup, with the first time and also took the field in a friendly against Manchester United.
Pantazopoulos, however, failed to make last seasons roster, and Archer could be gone after the first week of training in Ave Maria, FL. That 10-day session begins on Jan. 20.

Bears receive Sports Illustrated's top offseason grade in NFC North

Bears receive Sports Illustrated's top offseason grade in NFC North

The Chicago Bears are less than one month from the start of training camp, but the praise for general manager Ryan Pace's offseason continues to pour in.

Pace and the Bears received an A for their offseason -- the best grade in the NFC North -- from Sports Illustrated. A big part of the perfect score was the overhaul at wide receiver.

Chicago had one of the weakest receiving groups in the NFL last season—the team ranked dead last in passing yards per game (175.7)—so that position was clearly an area of focus this offseason for general manager Ryan Pace. The additions of Allen Robinson from Jacksonville, Taylor Gabriel from Atlanta and Anthony Miller via the draft will boost a stagnant group, assuming Robinson returns fully healthy from last September’s ACL tear. If 2015 first-round pick Kevin White can stay healthy for a full season for the first time in his ill-fated career, it’s an added bonus.

Much is expected from the revamped group of pass-catchers even though none of them have an overwhelming history of production. Robinson had a dominant season in 2015 (1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns), but his last two seasons involved mediocre production in 2016 and a torn ACL in Week 1 last year. Gabriel's never topped more than 621 yards in a season and tight end Trey Burton has been a backup his whole career. Miller has yet to play a snap in the NFL and White, now entering his fourth season, is still looking for his first touchdown catch.

Mitch Trubisky has a lot of work to do once training camp kicks off. Not only must he master coach Matt Nagy's offense, but he must do so while building chemistry with all of his new receivers. Growing pains will happen, but the upside and expectations for the Bears in 2018 are higher than they've been in many years, and it's all because of a great offseason had by the front office.

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

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USA TODAY

Stan Bowman plays coy when asked about pitching free agent John Tavares

The unrestricted free agent market opens up for the NHL on July 1. Five-time All-Star John Tavares is will reportedly be meeting with five different teams to talk about the possibility of leaving the only team he's played for his entire career, the New York Islanders. 

After a highly disappointing 33-39-10 finish to the 2017-18 season, many expect Chicago general manager Stan Bowman to be very aggressive this offseason. When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle if the Blackhawks would be one of the five teams going after Tavares, Bowman gave a very reticent answer.

"I woudn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile. 

"No, I'm not going to comment on that, but I know we're gonna have a lot of discussions over the next five or six days and we'll see where it goes."

Reports indicate that the Islanders and Tavares had been trying to work out the terms of a long-term extension, but with so many attractive options out there, it will be a tough decision for him. There are several teams coming off of playoff runs expected to go after Tavares, including Tampa Bay, Las Vegas and San Jose. In addition to those teams, his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to be in play as well.

But Chicago's rough year was so out of place for a team so used to winning consistently, that one can imagine their pitch will be enticing.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC's Hockey Night in Canada had this to say about the Blackhawks potential pursuit of Tavares: "They're not going to tolerate being that bad again, they're going to try something. I think they'll make a run at John Tavares too. I do, I think they'll ask, is there any way we can get him here?"

When taking all of this into account, it is sure to be an extremely exciting free agency period for the Blackhawks. The team is in full "re-tool" rather than "rebuild" mode, and there have been discussions that Kane may be becoming the more vocal leader of the team. But the addition of Tavares to a core of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford could boost the Blackhawks back into Stanley Cup contention.