Bears

Fire shut out by Red Bulls

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Fire shut out by Red Bulls

HARRISON, N.J. -- With record-setting temperatures stifling Red Bull Arena, New York coach Hans Backe asked captain Thierry Henry if he wanted to sit the game out.

Henry declined and scored in the 71st minute to lift the Red Bulls to a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.

"The boss asked me if I wanted to play," Henry said. "I told him that I needed to play. I needed to get back into a rhythm, because I haven't been playing much lately. I'm getting better, but to get better, I need minutes. I hadn't scored in a while, so I needed to do something to win the game."

It was Henry's 10th goal of the season - and first since April 28, when he scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over New England. Henry missed four games in May due to a hamstring strain, returned for one game, then missed two games in June with a strained calf.

The Red Bulls (10-5-5) moved into second place in the Eastern Conference and remained the lone MLS team to be undefeated at home (6-0-3).

Chicago (9-7-4), which was 6-1-3 against the Red Bulls since 2008, remained in fourth place in the East.

Bill Gaudette, playing in just his second game with the Red Bulls, got the shutout without having to make a save.

The game drew an attendance of 15,815 in record-breaking 106-degree temperatures, the hottest July 18 ever recorded in New Jersey.

"It was amazing," Henry said. "I never played in anything like this. It's the kind of day where you want to stay in the air conditioning and drink lots of water. You just do whatever you can."

Backe thought his team played well despite the heat and humidity.

"They were difficult conditions to play in, but it would have been more difficult if we were to lose," he said. "The players had to know how to handle the heat. They could go forward when we had the opportunity, but you can never tell in conditions like this. We made the most of our chances."

After the majority of the game was played to a crawl, Henry blasted a left-footed shot that went off the far right goalpost and into the net.

Rookie Connor Lade, who entered the match only a few minutes prior, made a fine play at midfield to move the ball up the field. Lade fed newcomer Sebastian Le Toux, who made a perfect 35-yard cross to Henry. The French superstar settled the ball with his chest, then put it to his left foot. The shot was from a tough angle, but Henry managed to get it high off the post and past Sean Johnson.

"We wanted to win this game," Henry said. "I got a great pass from Seb and it was striker's instinct. It was one of those things. Sometimes, they go in. Sometimes, they don't."

Le Toux, playing in just his second game with New York, saw Henry make the move to goal.

"A forward like him knows how to score," said Le Toux, acquired last week in a trade with Vancouver. "He knows what to do in space. He made a great touch with his chest and it was a beautiful goal."

The Red Bulls survived a scare in the 84th minute, when Gonzalo Segares' header appeared to go past Gaudette, but an alert Brandon Barklage headed it out of danger to preserve the lead.

The Red Bulls had the better of the play in the first half and had three excellent scoring chances. In the 21st minute, Mehdi Ballouchy hit a low shot that Fire goalie Sean Johnson stopped by making a diving save. Two minutes later, Ballouchy had another chance, but he fired his shot over the crossbar. In the 32nd minute, Le Toux made a brilliant attempt that sailed over the crossbar. Le Toux also had a shot in the closing minute than a sprawled Johnson managed to punch out of the goal.

In the second half, the Red Bulls continued to control play and had a great scoring chance when Henry made a fine feed across to Markus Holgersson, whose header went over the crossbar.

Chicago could not muster any kind of a consistent offensive attack in the sweltering heat.

"It was extremely hot, but we weren't the only ones playing in it," said Fire forward Dominic Oduro, a former Red Bulls player. "You can't run 100 percent of the time on a day like this. The heat was really a factor. Unfortunately, they were the ones who got the goal and we couldn't do anything."

Chicago midfielder Marco Pappa added: "It's hard to get anything going in this kind of weather. They had one nice shot from Henry and that was it. Our shape and fitness wasn't the best for a day like this."

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: