Cubs

Galaxy win MLS Cup over Houston

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Galaxy win MLS Cup over Houston

The longest season in Major League Soccer history ended Saturday, with the host Los Angeles Galaxy beating the Houston Dynamo 3-1 in a rematch of the MLS Cup final of 2011.
No American sports league has a season as long as MLS, which started training camp in mid-January and played its first-ever match in December this season. The 2013 campaign figures to be even longer, with the first regular season match slated for the second week of March a week earlier than the First Kick this season.
MLS hasnt announced its schedule for next season, and the clubs including the Fire have provided only sketchy details regarding their preseason plans, but the start of training is only about six weeks away. Already, Fire head coach Frank Klopas, assistant Mike Matkovich, managing director Javier Leon and vice president of soccer operations Guillermo Petrei spent time last week in Spain in preparation for some roster re-tooling.
The Fires full squad is expected to regroup again in Florida around Jan. 19 but the MLS re-entry draft (Friday), open tryout (Dec. 14-15) and combine leading into the Jan. 17 SuperDraft in Indianapolis will all be held before then.
Like the other 18 clubs, the Fire will have to deal with a bit different-looking MLS in 2013.
The champion Galaxy will undergo a major transformation, suggesting an even more wide-open competition is in the offing. (It was pretty wide open this season, with Los Angeles getting into the Western Conference playoffs as only the No. 4 seed, and the Dynamo was No. 5 in the Eastern Conference).
The Galaxy will lose David Beckham, the iconic English midfielder. His signing six seasons ago gave MLS a needed publicity boost, but at 37 he opted to move on with a club in Australia his likely next destination. He has, however, been rumored to be joining MLS as an owner, and the Galaxy is up for sale. Interestingly Anschutz Entertainment Group owns both teams in the MLS Cup final. AEG also brought the Fire into MLS before selling the franchise to current owner Andrew Hauptman in 2007.
Beckham was all about pizzazz in the beginning, but he played in four MLS Cup finals in his six seasons and was on the winning side twice. This season he had seven goals and nine assists in the regular season, proof that he still has significant skills.
The Galaxy will likely lose much more than him. Landon Donovan, just 30 but a member of a record six MLS Cup championship teams, talked about calling it quits, too, in the days leading into Saturdays match. Chances are Donovans just tired, and he should be. Between MLS and national team duty he played in 35 matches -- many of the high-pressure variety --in the last 36 weeks.
Omar Gonzalez, whose goal Saturday ignited the Galaxy and helped him win the games Most Valuable Player award, has received interest from European clubs with Germanys FC Nurnberg the leading contender. Brazilian midfielder Juninho was only on loan to Los Angeles for this season. He could be back with Sao Paulo in his homeland in 2013.
The Galaxy is already preparing for departures, with Chelseas Frank Lampard andor Real Madrids Kaka viable additions to the Los Angeles roster.
Houston wont be as decimated, but one key player figures to retire. Midfielder Brian Ching, 34, dropped from the starting 11 to a reserve role after undergoing his second meniscus surgery.
The Fire has been in three MLS Cup finals in its 15 seasons but won only the first one in 1998 and Josh Wolff the last active player on that seasons roster retired last week to take a full-time coaching position with D.C. United.
Chicagos connections to the 2013 championship match included former Fire head coach Dave Sarachan, one of Bruce Arenas key assistants in Los Angeles, and Houston forward Calen Carr, who scored the Dynamo goal.
The Fire made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 this season and figures to be in the mix again in 2013. To be a title contender, however, the Fire will need to find a standout playmaking midfielder. The Fire played some good soccer after Sebastian Grazzini decided to return to Argentina in mid-season, but that position was clearly a deficiency down the stretch.

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

Jake Arrieta full of appreciation in return to Wrigley mound: ‘I’ll never forget this city’

The last time Jake Arrieta pitched at Wrigley Field, his night ended with Cubs fans giving him a rousing standing ovation. The former Cubs right hander tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, leading the Cubs to victory in Game 4 of the 2017 NLCS—their only win against the Los Angeles Dodgers that series.

Arrieta returned to Wrigley Field as a visitor on Monday night, making his first start against the Cubs since joining the Philadelphia Phillies last season. Ironically, Arrieta’s counterpart for the night was Yu Darvish, who ultimately replaced Arrieta in the Cubs starting rotation.

Despite now donning Phillies red, Cubs fans once again showed their love for Arrieta, giving him a lengthy standing ovation ahead of his first plate appearance. Darvish even stepped off the mound in respect for the moment.

“I loved it, absolutely loved it,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said to reporters postgame. “[I’m] very happy that our fans would acknowledge him like that. Yu stepped away from the mound nicely. Jake deserved it.”

Arrieta tipped his helmet in appreciation for the crowd, taking in the moment for more than 30 seconds before stepping into the batter’s box. After the game, he told reporters that moment brought back memories of his time with the Cubs.

“That was something that really brought back great memories of getting that same sort of ovation pretty much on a nightly basis,” Arrieta said. “[I’m] very appreciative of that. I can’t say thank you enough to the city of Chicago, I really can’t.”

Arrieta took fans back to his Cubs tenure on Monday, throwing six innings of one run ball in the Phillies’ 5-4 10-inning win. Although the 33-year-old didn’t pick up the victory, he matched Darvish—who threw six innings of three-run ball—pitch by-pitch.

Phillies manager Gabe Kapler noted how well Arrieta handled his emotions throughout the night.

“I thought he handled the emotions really well. I thought he was in control of the game even when we were down,” Kapler said to reporters. “He always maintained his poise and he just got stronger as the outing went on and that’s why we were able to have him take down the sixth inning for us.”

It’s well-documented how Arrieta’s career improved for the better after the Cubs acquired him in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013. When the Cubs acquired him, Arrieta held a career 5.46 ERA in 69 games (63 starts). He finished his Cubs career with a 2.73 ERA in 128 regular season starts. He also won five postseason games with the Cubs, including Games 2 and 6 of the 2016 World Series.

Despite moving on in free agency, Arrieta spoke highly of his time with the Cubs, their fans and the city of Chicago.

“Cubs fans all across the country, all across the world, they really respect and appreciate what guys are able to do here for them,” he said. “It means a lot, it really does.

"I’ll never forget this city, the fan base, the organization, everything that they did for me. It was 4 1/2 incredible years of my career.”

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Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish crashed Jake Arrieta's party, but Cubs bullpen falters

Yu Darvish was one pitch away.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning, Darvish threw Phillies catcher JT Realmuto a 2-2 cutter. It made sense - Darvish had been spotting that pitch well all night, and the Phillies were averaging a paltry 79.8 mph exit velocity against it.

With one strike standing between Darvish and a 6-inning shutout, Realmuto took Darvish’s cutter and sent it back up the middle for a game-tying RBI single. A 2-RBI triple from César Hernández followed. In the blink of an eye, what was shaping up to be one of Darvish’s finest moments in Chicago was instead reduced to yet another start spent searching for silver linings.

“Really good. He was outstanding tonight,” Joe Maddon said. “He pitched really well.

“He had really good stuff. He had command of his stuff, he had command of himself. I thought he was outstanding - even better than what he looked like in Cincinnati. I thought that was probably his best game for us to date.”

Darvish has continued to lean heavily on his cutter this season, more so than any year prior. After throwing it 13 percent of the time last season, he’s going to that pitch almost 25 percent of the time now. If that holds, it’d beat his previous career-high, set in 2013, by six percentage points.

All things considered, that pitch has actually been good for him this season. It’s his go-to offering when he needs to induce weak contact, and batters are hitting .125 against it so far. He gets batters to chase cutters 29.5 percent of the time, the most of any pitch he throws. While he has admitted in games past that he relies too heavily on his fastball, Maddon sees no issues with the new trend.

“I have no concerns with that whatsoever,” he said. “There’s different ways for pitchers to attack hitters, and if it's successful, I really would not change a whole lot.”

Though the night was dedicated to celebrating one of the franchises most beloved pitchers, it was one of their most maligned that continued to show signs of figuring it out. He’s put together back-to-back starts with three or less walks for the first time this season, and has allowed two or less runs in three of the last five.

The pitcher even stepped off the mound during Arrieta’s first at-bat, in order to let the standing ovation continue on.

“He’s is a legend in Chicago,” Darvish said after the game. “And I pitched against him and pitched pretty good, so it makes me confident.”

The bullpen again struggled on Monday night, as the trio of Mike Montgomery, Brad Brach, and Kyle Ryan allowed two runs on five hits, including the game-winning solo home run from Realmuto in the 10th. For a moment it looked like the Cubs had a win wrapped up when Brach got outfielder Andrew McCutchen to bite on a two-strike slider, but was (probably incorrectly) called a checked swing.  He would eventually draw a walk, leading to Jean Segura’s game-tying single.

“On the field, I thought for sure [that McCutchen swung],” Brach said. “Looking at the first base umpire, I was a little taken aback. That’s why I went off the mound - just to regather myself, because I didn’t want to let the emotion get to me there.

“It’s a 50-50 call, and unfortunately it didn’t go my way.”

 

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