White Sox

Oduro not out for revenge, just a win vs. Dynamo

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Oduro not out for revenge, just a win vs. Dynamo

Dominic Oduro and Calen Carr were the principals in what turned out a huge trade a year ago. On Sunday theyll be rivals when Oduros Fire hosts Carrs Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park.

At the beginning of last season Oduro was an under-achieving striker for the Dynamo and Carr, injury-riddled in his five seasons with the Fire, was trying to recover from a concussion. So, the teams swapped players and -- in one of those rare quirks of fate -- both teams benefitted greatly from the deal.

Oduro had a breakthrough season, scoring 12 goals to become the first Fire player since Damani Ralph in 2004 to tally in double figures. He went on to become a finalist for Major League Soccers comeback Player of the Year, an award that went to Los Angeles David Beckham.

Carr eventually recovered from his concussion, playing in nine regular season games for Houston and starting four of them. He also started all four playoff games as the Dynamo reached the MLS Cup final before losing to Beckhams Galaxy. Carr had two goals in his 11 games for the Dynamo last season, the second a game-winner in postseason play.

Sundays match will hardly be the Oduro vs. Carr show, however. The Fire (1-1-1) and the Dynamo (2-1-0) are happy to be playing again, even though neither team will be at full strength. The Fire hasnt played since a 2-0 loss at Colorado on April 1. The Dynamo has been off since March 23, a 2-0 loss at Seattle. Houstons schedule called for seven road games to open the season.

The Fire will be without veteran central defender Cory Gibbs, who is out 4-6 months after undergoing knee surgery last week, and right back Dan Gargan (sprained toe) is listed as questionable. The Dynamo will line up without three starting midfielders. Colin Clark and Adam Moffat will serve suspensions and Brad Davis has a calf strain.

Sean Johnson is projected to make his first start of the season in goal for the Fire. He was held out of the first three games after lengthy training stints with Everton of the English Premier League and the U.S. under-23 squad. Coach Frank Klopas gave Johnson game action in two reserve team matches (both losses) and a friendly against the University of Louisville (a 1-0 win) during the long break from MLS action. Italian rookie Paolo Tornaghi was in goal for the first three MLS games.

Carrs role with the Dynamo is uncertain. He underwent meniscus surgery in the offseason and hasnt made a start yet, though he saw 36 minutes of action in two appearances off the bench.

Oduro, though, is more than ready to go. He carried his strong season in 2011 into a fast start in 2012 and claims the trauma of the trade is in the past.

"It was devastating when the trade happened," said Oduro, "but it turned out a positive for me. I was a little surprised when it happened. It wasnt a slap in the face, but it turned out a blessing in disguise. Its in the past, and I dont think about it any longer."

The Dynamo got good without Oduro, but the Fire finished strong, too.

"(Houston) went to the finals. Obviously they played their hearts out," said Oduro. "But Im more concerned with the Chicago Fire. Whats important is that we get three points at home. Im not thinking about it being against my old team. I cant dwell on that."

Neither team could get three points at home when they met last year. Both matches ended 1-1, with Oduro getting the tying goal in the second meeting. Like last season, the Fire is 1-1-1 after three games with a loss the most recent result. After that start last year the Fire went 11 games without a win, but did finish on a 7-2-1 run to just miss the playoffs.

This time the Fire had a 1-1 draw at Montreal and a 1-0 home win over Philadelphia before the loss at Colorado.

"We had everybody back from last year," said Oduro, assessing whats happened so far. "The first game was difficult, playing a new team with their home crowd. In our home game we played well. At Colorado we could have done better, but every day is still a work in progress for us. We cant be perfect all the time. Weve got to stay disciplined, stay focused throughout the game."

On a personal level, Oduro hopes to keep scoring to impress a new coach for Ghanas national team. Both he and fellow striker Patrick Nyarko hope to make that team after getting callups by the former coach, who was recently fired.

"At the end of the day my performance here will show if Im fit (for selection)," he said. "If I do my job here, the rest will be up to the (Ghana soccer) association. We know MLS is really young and getting there. They know about us, obviously, since they did call us up to the national team."

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

The White Sox hit four home runs Tuesday night, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But the guys who hit those round trippers have combined for just 31 of them this season.

Meanwhile, when Miguel Sano obliterated a baseball 482 feet in the third inning, he became the Minnesota Twins’ fifth player to reach 30 bombs this season. That’s the first time that’s happened in a single season in baseball history.

While you were sleeping, the high-powered Twins defeated the White Sox on a walk-off hit by pitch, one of the least powerful ways you can win a ballgame. But the team from the Land of 10,000 Lakes has won far more games this season by smashing baseballs into the stratosphere.

They’ll likely win an AL Central title on that premise, and while it’s not the only way to set yourself up as a World Series contender, in 2019 it’s one of the better ways. The top eight teams in the game in home runs are either going to the postseason or remain in a pennant race: the Twins, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland Athletics, the Cubs, the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.

So let’s bring this around to the White Sox, whose winter shopping list is beginning to take shape as they prepare to set their sights on the offseason.

We all know Rick Hahn and his front office will be targeting starting pitching, the general manager has said as much after the organization’s major league ready depth in that area was worn bare in 2019. We’ll have to wait to find out whether Hahn inks a top-of-the-rotation star or provides depth behind All-Star hurler Lucas Giolito. But that shouldn’t — nay, can’t — be the only area that gets a facelift.

The White Sox also need an everyday right fielder, the internal options whittled from bountiful to non-existent thanks to injuries and under-performance in the minor leagues this season. The White Sox could probably also use a designated hitter. While Zack Collins — one of the home-run hitters Tuesday night — is getting a lot of reps there right now, if this team has eyes on contending next season, they might not have the luxury of playing “let’s see what he can do” with Collins.

Those two positions would figure to provide opportunities for Hahn’s front office to add some desperately needed pop to this lineup.

The White Sox are in the middle of their final up-close-and-personal demonstration of what an influx of offseason power can do, playing against baseball’s home-run leaders in the Twins. No team in baseball has launched more homers than the Twins this season, which is by design after they spent last offseason adding Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, a quartet that combined for 104 home runs in 2018. This year, they’ve blasted a combined 95 with a week and a half worth of games left.

The power numbers are remarkable in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and in an era where the home-run ball is dominating, they’re doing it better than anyone. White Sox fans surely don’t need to be reminded of that fact. The Twins have hit 39 home runs against the South Siders this season, including 27 of them at Guaranteed Rate Field. Cruz, who is the only player in the bigs to hit at least 35 homers in each of the last six seasons, has hit eight of his 37 dingers off White Sox pitching.

While the White Sox likely won’t deviate from their rebuilding efforts just to copy the Twins, there’s no doubt they could use some additional power. They came into Tuesday night with the sixth fewest home runs in baseball, some of the game’s worst teams the only ones behind them. With the Twins using the longball to win a division crown and make themselves one of the best teams in the game, surely the White Sox could benefit from mixing some outside pop in with their cavalcade of young players.

They’ll likely get some help from Luis Robert, who belted 32 home runs in the minors this season a year after hitting none while battling thumb injuries in 2018. Nick Madrigal probably won’t do much for the White Sox home-run total, but a full, healthy season of Eloy Jimenez should. He’s en route to a 30-homer rookie season despite missing nearly 40 games. Jose Abreu certainly hasn’t been the problem, flirting with a career high in homers while blasting past his career high in RBIs. James McCann, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson all had terrific seasons, but is a significant jump in home runs expected for 2020? Probably not.

So added power will have to come from the two holes that need plugging in the everyday lineup.

Who’s out there? Fans will jump right to J.D. Martinez, who’s expected to opt out of his deal with the Boston Red Sox and become a highly pursued free agent. Martinez would fit the bill, all right, with 35 more homers this season to bring his total since the start of the 2015 season to a whopping 183.

Martinez will have his fair share of pursuers, and it’ll cost some big bucks to make his opt-out worth it (even though the Red Sox would probably be happy to see his salary come off the books given their supposed financial pickle). But the White Sox have that much-discussed money to spend, and Martinez would solve their power deficiency as their everyday DH.

Corner outfield free agents to-be include Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig and Marcell Ozuna. If the disastrous Pittsburgh Pirates decide to let Starling Marte walk, he could add a career-high 23 homers to the lineup. Kole Calhoun could hit the market, and he’s past the 30-homer mark this season. He’s also the only lefty in that group, something that could matter considering the White Sox projected lineup for 2020 and beyond is heavily right handed.

And then there’s the trade market. But remember that the depth of the White Sox farm system doesn’t look much like it did a year ago, and it could be rather difficult for Hahn to create an appealing package of prospects that could fetch the kind of impact bat (or arm, for that matter) the team would like to add to the roster.

The opportunities are there for the White Sox to make some Twins-esque additions and ratchet up the power numbers in 2020. It won’t mean they’ll be mashing at a Twins-esque level — considering that no team in baseball has, even the ones also hitting homers in bunches — but it’s a trait that’s helping teams across the game win on a nightly basis.

The White Sox could help their crusade to contend in 2020 — to join that group of baseball’s best teams — by improving themselves in that area this winter.

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Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Bears offensive line stonewalled Von Miller in Week 2

Denver Broncos superstar pass-rusher Von Miller is one of the most feared defenders in the NFL. He can single-handedly destroy an offense's gameplan, and in Sunday's Week 2 matchup against the Chicago Bears, it was up to Charles Leno and Bobby Massie to make sure he didn't make a game-changing sack of Mitch Trubisky.

Mission accomplished.

The Bears' offensive line wasn't perfect in Denver, but they checked one of the biggest boxes of the week by keeping Miller away from Trubisky all afternoon. According to Pro Football Focus, Miller made no impact -- literally none -- as a pass rusher.

Miller entered the 2019 season with five-straight seasons of double-digit sacks, including 14.5 in 2018. His rare talent, combined with the defensive genius of Vic Fangio, appeared like a mission-impossible in Week 2. But Leno and Massie answered the call in dominant fashion. They both finished the game with top-10 grades on Chicago's offense, per PFF.

To be fair, Miller registered an elite grade against the run in Week 2, but his 49.3 pass-rush grade was the worst on the Broncos defense. You read that right; Miller was Denver's worst pass-rusher Sunday.

Kudos to Leno and Massie for a job well done.