Bears

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.

LOOK: Charles Leno helps refuel Bears-themed bus

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USA Today

LOOK: Charles Leno helps refuel Bears-themed bus

Charles Leno has had a pretty spectacular career so far. Rarely do seventh-round picks play their way to a second contract, let alone a starting job at left tackle, but Leno's overcome the odds to become one of the Bears' key offensive pieces.

He's also a pretty good guy.

Leno posted a picture on his Twitter account Wednesday of a Bears-themed bus that was stranded on the side of the road. He initially drove by. But the symbolism screamed out to him: The Bears aren't breaking down this year.

Rather than continue driving, Leno turned around and offered assistance to the Bears fans at the wheel. He shared this picture of the encounter, along with his message to fans across the country:

To be clear, Leno did little more than provide company for the bus's owners. He made sure he didn't receive all the credit for their return to the road:

Leno did a good deed looking out for those Bears fans. Now, he has to make sure he protects Mitch Trubisky's blindside on the eve the team's first training camp practice.

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: 'There's no fear'

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AP

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: 'There's no fear'

The Chicago sunlight followed Jabari Parker as he walked through the East Atrium doors of the United Center, facing Michael Jordan’s statue before meeting with the media, introduced as a member of the Bulls for the first time.

For his sake, the brighter days are ahead instead of to his back as he’ll challenge the perception of being the hometown kid who can’t outrun his own shadow.

Parker re-enters Chicago as the No. 2 pick of the the 2014 draft the Milwaukee Bucks allowed to walk without compensation despite holding the cards through restricted free agency, damaged goods on the floor but not giving the Bulls a discount to don that white, red and black jersey he’s always dreamed of wearing.

“There were other teams but as soon as I heard Chicago, I just jumped on it,” Parker said.

It took a two-year, $40 million deal (2019-20 team option) to get Parker home, along with the selling point that he’ll start at small forward—a position that’s tough to envision him playing with on the defensive end considering three of the game’s top six scorers occupy that space.

It was a dream come true for his father, Sonny Parker, and high school coach, Simeon Academy’s Robert Smith, who both couldn’t hide their joy following the first question-and-answer session with the media.

“This is where he wanted to be,” Sonny Parker said. “His family’s happy, the support is there. All I know is the United Center will sell out every game. He can’t wait.

“Normally guys get drafted here. He signed to come here. He had a couple offers from other teams but he wanted to come here.”

The biggest examples of Chicagoans who arrived with outsized expectations for this franchise had varying results, but Derrick Rose and Eddy Curry both came away with scars of sorts that had many wondering why any hometown product would willingly choose to play for the Bulls.

The risk seems to far outweigh the reward; the emotional toll doesn’t seem worth the fare. And with the roster makeup not being ideal for Parker, no one could blame him for going to a better situation—or at least one more tailored to his skills rather than his heart.

“I think every situation is different. Derrick was excelling,” Bulls executive vice-president John Paxson said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “MVP of the league in his hometown before the injury. Eddy was just a young kid who didn’t have the savvy Derrick had. I think every situation is different. Jabari is such a grounded, solid person that he’s gonna be just fine.

“You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time with him to figure out he’s got it together. He knows who he is. Comfortable in his own skin. A quiet guy. Hopefully he’ll thrive here. The goal is it works great for him and works great for us.”

It seemed like he was bred to be a pro—and not just any pro, but the type Chicago demands of its own when a covenant to play 82 nights a year has been reached. If the constant prodding from his father didn’t break his façade, or older brother Darryl doing everything he could to coax emotion from the most gifted of the Parker clan couldn’t do it, two ACL surgeries on his left knee may pale in comparison.

The numbers from Parker’s recent stint with the Bucks don’t bear it out, but Smith sees a player who’s back on track to being what his talent has always dictated he should become.

“Even watching him work out lately, it’s like whoa,” Smith said. “But of course, everything with Chicago period you have to be cautious. With his family and the support system he has, this thing is about winning basketball games and giving back to the community.

“He’s had that (target) on his back since he stepped on the court at Simeon, coming behind Derrick and being one of the top five players as a freshman and No. 1 player as a junior. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, it can help him a little bit. If he has those moments if something doesn’t go right, he has someone to help him.”

Parker is more known for his restarts than his unique skill set in his young career, but even at 23 years old speaks with a sage of someone 20 years his senior, unwilling to tab this portion of his journey as a fresh start.

After all, it would be easy to envision his career beginning from the moment he left Simeon as a phenom followed by his one season at Duke—having two games where he totaled just 24 minutes with just two points to start the Bucks’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics isn’t typical of a star’s story if he sees himself that way.

“I don’t. I don’t want to forget all the hard work I had,” Parker said. “To forget I hurt myself and came back is to discredit my success. That in of itself is something outside the norm. I want to always remember the setbacks and failures I’ve had in my career so far. I want to use that as a sense of motivation.”

Bringing up his awkward pro beginnings in Milwaukee, where Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascension to an unexpected strata mirrored thoughts he might’ve had of himself before his injuries, didn’t cause him to growl.

“I’ve never got jealous a day in my life. That’s why it wasn’t hard because I wasn’t jealous,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “My journey is my journey. I gotta be proud of that and be patient. I took that and I move forward.”

The mention of his defense didn’t make him defensive, either, as he definitively pointed out the truth as he saw it, that today’s game is far more offensive-minded than the bruise-fests of the previous decades. Telling by his words in subsequent interviews, the best defense is a great offense and when he’s right, there aren’t many who can get a bucket as easily and with as much diversity as himself.

The only time Parker broke serve was at the notion he’d be following in the footsteps of Rose’s perceived failures, the setbacks Rose suffered when his knees began to fail after reaching inspiring heights players like Parker wanted to emulate.

At the podium for all to see, he corrected a question formed around Rose’s “rise and fall”, a sound byte copied and pasted by a couple Chicago-bred NBA players on social media in support of Parker’s words and feelings.

“Derrick had no lows. He didn’t. He still maintained. Derrick’s a legend, no matter what…no rise and falls. Injuries are part of life. Derrick is one of the best icons in Chicago. He accomplished his duty already.”

And later, he wanted to set the record straight again, drawing a line from how the media has presented Rose compared to how the people of Chicago see him, and vice-versa.

“We didn’t turn on Derrick, the media (did),” Parker told NBCSportsChicago.com. “We’re hometown. I speak for everybody, we love our hometown.”

The love of Chicago meant more than the prospect of not being able to live up to a glorious prep past, even though he should be well aware wanderlust can turn to villainy in a heartbeat—or the wrong step.

“There’s no pressure for me,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “I’m just happy I get to play with some young guys, and I don’t harp on the negative. Anybody and everybody is gonna have an opinion. I value more my dreams than their opinions.”

And the dreamer steps forward, with a confident gait, eyes wide open and a city hoping it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes of its past.

“There’s no fear,” Parker said. “I haven’t faced any other pressure than bouncing back. I’m back on my feet and moving on.”

“When you struggle more, you succeed more.”