Cubs

Winless April draws to an end for Fire

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Winless April draws to an end for Fire

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 10:59 p.m.

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com
The Chicago Fire extended their winless streak to five games and ended the month of April without a win for the first time in the franchises 13-year history after drawing with the Colorado Rapids 1-1 Saturday night in Commerce City, Co.

It was a difficult match, Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said postgame. I thought we played a very good first half, but I think it was a good match, difficult because both teams are having a difficult moment.

With the draw, Colorado ended their three-game losing streak, but extended its winless streak to four games.

Were going in for three points, Fire forward Dominic Oduro said. Even though the season is young, weve just been crawling on the table. Well take one point against losing a game right now its good start in a positive direction.

Despite the Rapids owning possession for more than two-thirds of the first half, the Fire dominated in early scoring chances, and netted the games opening goal in the forty-third minute. Marco Pappas third goal of the season was set up by a Gastn Puerari chipped lead pass to Oduro along the right sideline. Oduro, using his prodigious speed, outran his marker, Anthony Wallace, into the box, and made a centering pass to Pappa.

Oduros pass just beat Rapids defender Tyrone Marshalls sliding effort to clear, and a falling Pappa was able to direct his first touch into the back of the net.

Weve been working on this in practice, Oduro said. All I had to do was play the ball right to him and he did a great job in finishing.

Things didnt play out as easily for the Fire after the goal. A failed possession and a lapse in defensive form helped the Rapids equalize the game just after halftime.

After a failed counter-attack, a Fire turnover in its defensive third went to the most dangerous man on the pitch, Rapids striker Omar Cummings. Catching Fire defender Yamith Cuesta floating without a mark, Cummings slid the ball to Andre Akpan, who blasted a shot from ten-yards out, hitting the upper left corner of the net after Fire goaltender Jon Conways fingertips could not deflect the ball away.

The forty-ninth minute goal was Akpans first in Major League Soccer.

Both teams locked down on defense in the second half, but relied on its goaltenders to make big stops down the stretch. Conway, starting his third consecutive game for the Fire, made five saves in the game.

Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos used a five-man midfield against Colorado with captain and central midfielder Logan Pause out of the game with right hamstring injury. In Pauses absence, Pappa wore the captains armband Saturday.

The injury and formation shift gave Corben Bone and newcomer Daniel Paladini their first starts of the season. Bone went seventy-five minutes before being replaced by Orr Barouch.

Oduro, who played out wide Saturday, thought the five-man midfield helped the team stay compact in the middle and win more balls. His coach agreed, despite the games unfavorable outcome.

I liked the new formation, de los Cobos said. I liked it because my intention today was to have the ball, to keep the ball, because its important, when you have control of the game, you have to have control of the ball. These guys Bone and Paladini have this skill, this quality.

"I think Paladini was very important for us this game, de los Cobos continued. He was the balance of the team.

The Fire lost central defender Josip Mikuli in the thirty-ninth minute to a shoulder injury sustained in a collision with Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Mikuli went down because of the injury three times in the first half, forcing de los Cobos hand. Central defender Dasan Robinson replaced Mikuli and played a solid fifty-one minutes in relief.

The draw gave the Fire its sixth point through seven games. Chicago sits in eighth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of last-place Sporting Kansas City, which lost 1-0 to Red Bull New York Saturday afternoon.

The Fires next game will be May 7 against the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Park.

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

Potential Kris Bryant trade market becomes clearer after Anthony Rendon lands with Angels

The first domino of this offseason’s third base market has fallen.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, free agent Anthony Rendon is set to sign a seven-year, $245 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.

The Texas Rangers were also linked to Rendon in recent days, but they’ll now have to shift their focus elsewhere. Texas’ attention is now on the other superstar free agent third baseman — Josh Donaldson — as MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reported. The same can be said about Rendon’s former team, the Washington Nationals.

This leads us to the Cubs and Kris Bryant. With Rendon off the board and Donaldson soon to follow, a potential trade market for the Cubs third baseman is growing clearer.

Only one of the Rangers and Nationals can sign Donaldson, not to mention his most recent team — the Atlanta Braves. When Donaldson’s domino falls, two of these teams will be left empty-handed in their pursuit of a third baseman.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also were linked to Rendon, though they don’t necessarily need a third baseman with Justin Turner manning the hot corner. Their pursuit of Rendon points to how they’re willing to shift Turner off third base, however. Add them to the list of teams seeking third base help.

Add that all up, and you have four teams in the market for Donaldson. The Cubs aren’t guaranteed to trade Bryant, but they’ll soon find themselves with some leverage. For the three teams that don’t land Donaldson, the most logical move will be to inquire with the Cubs about trading for Bryant. The Nationals have already inquired about Bryant, according to MLB.com's Jon Morosi.

Bryant’s unresolved grievance case will be an issue in any potential negotiations. The difference between two years of control (if he loses) and one (if he wins) is big when it comes to his value. Even though they’ll have leverage over interested teams, the Cubs will yield stronger trade proposals for Bryant if he loses his case.

But, again, a trade is no certainty. What is certain is teams will be inquiring about Bryant in the not-so-distant future, once Donaldson chooses his free agent destination.

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

Four observations: Bulls rout Atlanta Hawks in much-needed get-right game

The Bulls picked up a valuable get-right win in a 136-102 blowout of the Atlanta Hawks. Observations from a game the Bulls had to win, and did handily:

The bench provided a spark (again)

Bulls starters not named Zach LaVine got off to a sluggish start in this one. At the 3:14 mark of the first, the Hawks led 29-21 and were shooting a scalding 13-for-18 (72.2%) from the field (3-for-6 from 3-point range). LaVine had 12 of the Bulls’ 21 points.

The hosts ended the period ahead 37-33, buoyed by a 16-4 run by a bench unit of Coby White, Ryan Arcidiacono, Denzel Valentine, Thad Young, and Daniel Gafford. Valentine hit four floaters over that stretch, Gafford had a resounding block, White had a strong and-one take over Alex Len and Thad Young tallied five points, for good measure. 

Bench runs have become commonplace for this Bulls team, even in the midst of a three-game losing streak. This one carried over into the second quarter, which the Bulls won 29-19, holding Atlanta to 6-for-21 (28.6%) shooting, 2-for-10 (20%) from three. They didn't look back from there.

Young finished the first half with nine points, four rebounds, and two assists. White had a flashy night — tallying 19 points. Valentine and Gafford connected on a handful of alley-oops (which has quickly become a tradition).

Zach LaVine bounced back

LaVine — averaging 20 points on 33.3% shooting during the team’s three-game losing streak — was ripe for a breakout, and this Hawks team (29th in the NBA in defensive rating) presented an opportunity to bounce back. He took advantage.

As mentioned, LaVine carried the Bulls offense early: he had 18 first-half points on 7-for-9 shooting. Embedded in that line were a few highlight-reel dunks that awoke the United Center:

He tacked on a cool 17 (!) in the third quarter before coming out with the game out of reach for the Hawks. LaVine finished the night leading all scorers with 35 points and shot a staggering 7-for-7 from 3-point range. When he’s on, it’s too much fun, and he dazzled in this one. 

In a favorable matchup, the defense kept rolling

Coming into this game, we knew the Bulls defense, theoretically, matched up well with Atlanta’s offense plan of attack. For the most part, that bore out, in practice.

Kris Dunn was outstanding in containing Trae Young tonight, hounding him off of every screen (where he was usually aided by a hedge from the big in coverage) and staying attached even in instances when Young was able to penetrate.

Young didn’t score until the 11:07 mark in the second quarter and finished the night with 15 points on 4-for-14 shooting (1-for-6 from three) and seven turnovers. This is the fourth-leading scorer in the NBA we’re talking about here. He did rack up 13 assists (six in the first quarter) — and some were very, very pretty — but most of those came in transition. In the halfcourt, the Bulls’ set defense effectively bottled him up.

The Hawks, as a team, committed 23 turnovers on the night, which the Bulls were able to convert into 15 points. Atlanta is an inferior opponent, yes, but it was a strong showing, nonetheless.

Blowouts are fun

This one was a little too close for comfort early on but ended in a rout. The Bulls simply outclassed the Hawks, winning statistical categories this team has often been overmatched in, from rebounds (42-40) to points in the paint (78-42), to blocks (7-4), to the 3-point battle. Lauri Markkanen even utilized garbage time to turn a fine stat line into a good one: he had 10 points in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting. 

So, you know what? Rest your brain with some of the best clips of the night. You’ve earned it:

 

 

 

 

The Bulls can push questions about fourth-quarter stagnation, cold shooting streaks, and crowded rotations until this weekend. This was a solid overall performance.

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