Bears

Fire welcome back Johnson, Friedrich

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Fire welcome back Johnson, Friedrich

A two-week break from league games this early in the season may not be ideal, but itll be useful for the Fire in the aftermath of its first loss of the Major League Soccer campaign.

The Fire (1-1-1) didnt play its best in a 2-0 road loss to the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, and coach Frank Klopas wont likely be fielding the same team in the next match -- against the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park on April 15.

During the break the Fire will get two key players, goalkeeper Sean Johnson and German defender Arne Friedrich, ready for action. Neither has played in a game yet, though both proven players have been in training for at least a week.

Johnson had a busy offseason, training with English Premier League member Everton for 12 days prior to joining the U.S. under-23 team on its failed attempt to qualify for the Olympics. While Johnson, who had a promising second season as the Fires starting netminder in 2011, went through some high-quality training sessions, he didnt see much game action. Klopas didnt want to rush him into that against an MLS opponent.

Friedrich, who has played 82 matches for Germanys national team, figures to be a mainstay central defender once hes ready to play. Like many European-based MLS players, Friedrich was competing on a different calendar than MLS players and needed time to round into game shape. Klopas didnt want to risk injury to a 32-year-old player by putting him in meaningful combat too soon.

Both Johnson and Friedrich, though, figure to benefit from low-key matches before Houston comes to town. Johnson played all 90 minutes of Mondays reserve team match in Denver, which was won by the Rapids 2-1.

Friedrich didnt play in that one but could see action when the University of Louisville tests the Fire in a friendly at 10 a.m. on Saturday on the Toyota Park practice field. Another reserve match is on tap for April 10 at Sporting Kansas City. Once those matches are completed, Johnson and Friedrich figure to be ready to go and right back Dan Gargan, who didnt make the trip to Colorado because of a left toe injury, should be healthy enough to return to the starting 11 as well.

Johnson figures to replace Paolo Tornaghi, who was decent overall in the first three games but not in top form at Colorado. Friedrich could make his Fire debut as a replacement for Jalil Anibaba.

Klopas moved captain Logan Pause to Gargans spot at Colorado and gave Colombian newcomer Rafael Robayo his first start in the midfield. Robayo was also the first man subbed out, with Daniel Paladini taking over for him in the 61st minute. Pause didnt go the route, either. Orr Barouch, seeing action for the first time this season, took over for him in the 83rd as Klopas looked for an offensive spark that might produce a tying goal. Barouch couldnt provide it this time, as he had in several games last season.

Klopas other sub was new Uruquayan forward Federico Puppo, who scored the Fire goal in Mondays reserve team match. He couldnt help on Sunday, however.

"That game was there for the taking," lamented Pause. "It was really an unfortunate result, starting the game off well and coming into halftime at zeros. In the second half we kind of lost our shape and discipline and ended up getting punished."

Klopas didnt like what he saw, either.

"It really wasnt a great game -- sloppy on both sides," he said. "For the first half we looked sluggish. On top of that we gave up two goals that weve never given up. Its a game we need to look at, forget and move on."

Getting whipped in Denver shouldnt be a surprise to the Fire. This loss was eerily reminiscent of games in the past. The first Colorado goal was scored by Omar Cummings, his sixth in seven career matches against the Fire. The Fire has won only once in six matches (1-2-3) in the Rapids current home at Dicks Sporting Goods Park and has only three wins in 18 games played between the teams in Denver (3-9-6) since the Fire entered MLS in 1998.

Are expectations too high for Bears WR Allen Robinson?

Are expectations too high for Bears WR Allen Robinson?

Allen Robinson was signed in free agency to become the alpha dog of the Chicago Bears' wide receiver corps. The three-year, $42 million contract that general manager Ryan Pace signed him to is proof of how high expectations are for the fifth-year pro.

Robinson isn't coming to Chicago with a flawless resume, however. His massive breakout year in 2015 (1,400 yards, 14 touchdowns) was followed by a pedestrian 883 yards in 2016 and a torn ACL in Week 1 last year. That begs the question: Is the forecast for Robinson's impact in 2018 too high right now?

According to Bleacher Report's Doug Farrar, the answer is yes. Robinson was named as the Bear most likely to disappoint this season.

Robinson practiced for the first time since the injury during the Bears' May minicamp, but it's safe to say Chicago isn't sure what it has in Robinson. If he gets back to his 2015 numbers, that would be huge for the Bears' passing offense, but given his 2016 regression and the specter of the 2017 injury, that's a tough bet.

Robinson will have an impact that goes beyond the traditional box score, and it will happen this season. Is he a lock to reach 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns? No, but his presence on the field will be enough to see a return on investment. The Bears haven't had the kind of threat he poses to defenses in several seasons, and his ability to pull a defensive coordinator's attention away from the running game will do wonders for Chicago's offensive output.

Determining whether Robinson is a disappointment in 2018 will depend on who's evaluating his season. Sure, he may disappoint in fantasy football circles if he doesn't re-emerge as a game-changing stat monster. But if he makes the Bears offense a more well-rounded and productive group, he'll live up to the expectations set by Pace and coach Matt Nagy.

As long as Robinson is pleasing Pace and Nagy, nothing else really matters.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 32nd homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa victimized the Tigers pitching staff again on the next night, taking Brian Moehler deep in the 7th inning for a 400-foot solo blast.

The homer tied the game at 3, but the Cubs blew the lead in the bottom of the 7th when the Terrys (Adams and Mulholland) gave up 3 runs. The Cubs wound up losing 6-4.

The Cubs were putting together a really nice season in 1998 that ended with a trip to October. They entered the series with the Tigers with a 42-34 record, yet lost both games to a Detroit team that entered the series with a 28-45 record. The Tigers finished the season 65-94; the Cubs finished 90-73.

Fun fact: Luis Gonzalez was the Tigers left fielder and No. 5 hitter for both games of the series. He spent part of the 1995 season and all of '96 on Chicago's North Side. 1998 was his only year in Detroit before he moved on to Arizona, where he hit 57 homers in 2001 and helped the Diamondbacks to a World Series championship with that famous broken-bat single in Game 7.

Fun fact  No. 2: Remember Pedro Valdes? He only had a cup of coffee with the Cubs (9 games in 1996 and 14 in '98), but started in left field on June 25, 1998. He walked and went 0-for-1 before being removed from the game for a pinch-hitter (Jose Hernandez).