Bulls

MLS suspends Beckham for one game

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MLS suspends Beckham for one game

Those soccer celebrity-watchers who hoped to see British icon David Beckham play at Toyota Park on Sunday will be disappointed.

Major League Soccers Disciplinary Committee handed Beckham a one-game suspension on Thursday, meaning he will not be in the Los Angeles Galaxy lineup for its meeting with the Fire.

Beckham drew his suspension for an incident in the 93rd minute of a 4-3 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday at Stanford Stadium. The Galaxy, which seemed to be recovering from a slow start to this season after winning the MLS Cup in 2011, blew two-goal leads twice against the Quakes, who own the circuits best record.

The match was winding down when San Jose midfielder Sam Cronin was writhing in the San Jose penalty box. Beckham, on the sidelines for a throw-in, kicked one ball over the fallen player, then fired another one that hit Cronin. That precipitated a confrontation between players from both squads.

Beckham was assessed a yellow card immediately, and that kept him out of Los Angeles 2-1 home loss to the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday. He missed that match the Galaxys first-ever loss to the Union because of yellow card point accumulations. Then the disciplinary committee added to Beckhams punishment on Thursday, fining him an undisclosed sum in addition to suspending him from the Fire match.

Prior to the San Jose match the Galaxy had won three straight to improve its record to 6-8-2. Now Los Angeles (6-10-2) sits in sixth place in the nine-team Western Division.

In his six seasons in MLS Beckham, former England captain who had a legendary career at Manchester United of the English Premier League, performed at Toyota Park only twice. He came on in the 58th minute of a 1-0 Fire win on Oct. 21, 2007 and played all 90 minutes of a 3-1 Fire win on Sept. 25, 2008.

Though the Fire won both times Beckham played, the clubs record against Los Angeles lifetime is a losing one (15-17-4). In Toyota Park meetings, the Fire owns a 3-2-1 edge, but the Galaxy won both of last years meetings. One was by a 2-1 score in Bridgeview on April 17.

This season the Fire is 5-1-2 in its eight home games, the best start through that number of games since the team moved into Toyota Park in 2006. The only better eight-game start at home for the Fire came in the inaugural 1998 season when the club was 6-2-0 en route to its improbable sweep on the MLS and U.S. Open Cups.

The Fire is assured its biggest home crowd of the season for Sundays 2 p.m. match in large part because of Beckhams expected appearance. Tickets are still on sale, but the game was a near-sellout before MLS suspended Beckham.

The Galaxy does not come to Bridgeview again this campaign. Sundays match is the only meeting of the clubs this season.

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen celebrates 21st birthday with a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team

Lauri Markkanen’s celebration for his 21st birthday coincided with another major honor, being selected to the All-Rookie First team.

Markkanen received 76 of 100 possible first-team votes to join Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, Boston’s Jayson Tatum and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma on the first team. Mitchell and Simmons were unanimous selections and Tatum was one vote short of joining Mitchell and Simmons.

Markkanen, acquired on draft night in the package of players for Jimmy Butler, showed he was far more advanced than many expected. His 15.2 points per game ranked third among rookies and his 7.5 rebounds were first.

Markkanen was a constant in a topsy-turvy season for the Bulls, scoring 30-plus twice and hitting the 25-point plateau another three times. As a perfect fit in Fred Hoiberg’s offensive system, Markkanen had eight games where he hit four triples or more, including a game in New York where he drilled eight 3-pointers against the Knicks.

Only 15 rookies have hit more than 140 triples in NBA history, with Markkanen accomplishing the feat in 68 games—he was joined by Mitchell and Kuzma from this year’s star-studded class.

As the season progressed and Markkanen took hold of the power forward position, the Bulls began maneuvering personnel around him, trading disgruntled forward Nikola Mirotic and making a concerted effort to put Bobby Portis at center to pair Portis with Markkanen as a spread-shooting duo.

As the most impressive rookie the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose, he’s also the first rookie since Taj Gibson in 2010 to make All-Rookie First Team.

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

Bears backfield ranked fourth-best in NFL

The Chicago Bears have a really good problem in their backfield. Both Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen will demand touches in 2018 and are each starting-quality running backs. Howard is the more traditional first and second-down back while Cohen offers top-tier playmaking ability.

The duo is so talented that they were recently ranked the fourth-best backfield in the NFL.

The Chicago Bears' Jordan Howard has emerged as one of the NFL's top rushers. He finished his rookie season with 1,313 yards, second-most in the NFL. Last season, he rushed for 1,122 yards and 4.1 yards per carry even though Chicago had the league's least threatening passing attack (175.7 yards per game).

Howard isn't the only standout back on the roster, though. Tarik Cohen is a supremely talented runner and receiver and a perfect complement to Howard. Last season, he amassed 370 rushing yards, 53 receptions and 353 receiving yards.

The Bears' backfield was behind only the Rams, Saints and Chiefs.

Howard set Chicago's rookie rushing record with 1,313 yards in 2016 and became the first Bears running back to start his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He should be the Bears' primary back, but coach Matt Nagy expressed genuine excitement over Cohen's skill set which suggests he plans on getting him the ball quite a bit this season.

Regardless of how the touches play out, the Bears will present opposing defenses with one of the most challenging ground games in the NFL.