Chicago Fire analysis/notes with plenty of Basti

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Bastian Schweinsteiger walks near his large likeness on March 29 during his introductory press conference in Chicago.  



When: 1 p.m., Saturday

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

Fire’s record: 1-1-2

Crew’s record: 3-1-1

Noteworthy: The two teams opened the season with a 1-1 tie in Columbus on March 4. Since then Columbus has scored nine more points to take the lead in the MLS East.


‘Shambolic’ defensive play tempers Basti’s debut


On the field, they celebrated.

In the locker room, they seethed.

And that might be a good thing. Settling for a tie is not the way some of the new Chicago Fire players want to conduct business.

Fire players saw the Major Soccer League debut of German star Bastian Schweinsteiger -- and he scored 17 minutes in on a header – and went wild in the 93rd minute when Luis Solignac scored a game-tying goal.

But when they went into the Toyota Park tunnel after tying Montreal 2-2, things changed.

“I have strong feelings about losing two points,” second-year Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “I saw a locker room that was not happy with a point and that’s something that I actually wanted to see.’’

Dex McCarty, who played in just his fourth match with the Fire and was not around when the team finished with the worst record in the MLS the past two seasons, was blunt after his team fell to 1-1-2 in front of an announced crowd of 15,103. He didn’t see the tie as the glass half full.

“You get an equalizer in the 93rd minute and you want to be happy and you want to feel like it’s a positive, but it’s not,’’ McCarty said. “It not a good result in the least bit. It’s a terrible result, actually. It’s going to be tough watching video (of this match).

“Defensively, it was just shambolic the way we conceded those two goals. If you want to win games in this league, it’s impossible if we concede soft goals like that. If you are going to concede goals like that at home, you are in for a long season. It was good character to come back and score, but it was two points lost.’’

Even the man of the hour, the international star known as ‘Basti’, couldn’t fully enjoy his debut.

“I like having a clean sheet,” he said. “And I like it when we can score two or three goals.’’

Montreal (0-1-3) scored both goals in the second half as Mattero Mancosu scored in the 61st minute and Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla scored in the 90th minute in a goal that appeared to doom the Fire. But officials allowed six minutes of extra time and that allowed Solignac to knot it up.

The game was full of yellow cards – six in all – and for the second game in a row, the Fire played a portion of the game a man down because of a red card after Juninho was shown his second yellow card in the 71st minute.

Unlike the Fire’s 4-0 loss at expansion Atlanta on March 18 when Johan Kappelhof received a red card in the 11th minute, the Fire only had to play 10 minutes with a disadvantage Saturday after Montreal’s Victor Cabrera received a red card for a professional (otherwise known as deliberate) foul.

The 32-year-old Schweinsteiger, who signed a one-year, $4.5 million deal with an option, made his presence felt right way with the opening goal.

“That’s everyone dream, to score a goal in your first game,” Paunovic said.

“It was a good feeling, of course,” Schweinsteiger said. “But I’m not so happy that we couldn’t win.’’

Basti one of 10

Schweinsteiger, who was signed in March to a one-year, $4.5 million deal by the Fire, became the 10th player in club history to score in his debut as his header found the mark in the 17th minute of a 2-2 tie with Montreal on Saturday.

It’s the first time it happened since Benji Joya scored in his debut on March 9, 2014 against Chivas USA.

Diego Chaves and Josh Wolff are the only two players in Fire history to score goals in their first two games, so Schweinsteiger has a shot at that on Saturday when the Fire hosts Columbus.

Fire coach Veljko Paunovic did not plan on using his new star for a full game but said circumstances warranted it.

“We had to make our decision on what was happening on the field,” the coach said. “The red card (on Juninho which put the team at a one-man disadvantage for 10 minutes) … all these things you can’t predict.’’

Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez said Fire fans are going to love this guy.

“What you see on the field is this unique combination of elegance with grit,” Rodriguez said. “It’s sophistication that’s covered in sweat. All of us that work on a daily basis can appreciate that.

“What you don’t see, and this is why we are so thrilled to have him, is the character. He has the true identity of a champion. It’s formed in the generosity of spirit and kindness and of giving that Bastian seems to have in limitless capacity. He seeks to give and not to take. He seeks to offer and not to ask.’’

The next Beckham?

At Schweinsteiger’s press conference on March 29, he was asked if he could be the next David Beckham – an international star who raised awareness of Major League Soccer when he joined the LA Galaxy in 2007.

“I don’t think about it,” he said. “I just want to help this team and help the people in Chicago to watch soccer. You have a very good baseball team, a very good ice hockey team, a very good football team and I hope soon a very good soccer team.’’

His coach thinks there is a chance Basti will have a Beckham-like impact.

“He can be the icon of the MLS,’’ Paunovic said.

“Much has been written about Basti all over the world,” Rodriguez added. “He does not see himself as a soccer deity. I think this is precisely what makes him an extraordinary man and a special person. We are incredibly lucky in Chicago to have Bastian with us.’’ 

Armani mania

Schweinsteiger picked up the nickname “Giorgio Armani” from teammates in the past for his sharp taste in clothes.

“I like Giorgio Armani’s stuff very much,” he said. “Maybe we can meet each other…’’

“An entire club sponsorship is available,” Rodriguez added.

Making the team better

Paunovic said Schweinsteiger made a difference in his first practice with the Fire.

“Our club is already different,” Paunovic said shortly after the March 28 practice. “You have to see how much his presence (affects) our players. We had a fantastic training…the mood, the atmosphere…everyone was inspired by him. Everyone wanted to give their best. We got not only a world-class player but a world-class person.

“I think he can inspire our players, our fans and our city.’’


Town hall forum at SXU addresses health care, environmental concerns

  • Written by Joe Boyle

While the Affordable Care Act is still operating after a vote by legislators to abolish the health care law was scrapped Friday, several public officials warned that future moves by the Trump administration and Congress could create hardship for many people and pose environmental threats.

A town hall forum was held at St. Xavier University addressed these issues and more. The forum, attended by 100 people, was sponsored in part by state Rep. Kelly Burke (D-36th), state Sen. Bill Cunningham (D-18th) and state Rep. Fran Hurley (D-35th).

Members of the audience wrote down questions that they handed to Burke, Cunningham and Hurley. The questions ranged from climate change, education funding, taxes, and changing the retirement age to 70

Courtney Hedderman, associate state director of advocacy and outreach at AARP, said the idea to remove the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is short-sighted because having nothing in its place will result in millions of people not having insurance at all. She believes the ACA needs some adjustments but the proposed American Health Care Act is just “not a good bill” in her opinion.

“The ACA gave insurance to people who were not insured,” said Hedderman, an Oak Lawn resident who has a daughter who attends SXU. “Everyone knows that the law is not perfect. What has happened is that many younger and healthy people have not taken the insurance. It just did not happen. That means that more people who are very sick and not healthy are taking the insurance and the premiums are rising.”

But Hedderman said the proposed American Health Care Act would have caused harm to seniors. The bill was pulled from the table by President Donald Trump after he conferred with House Speaker Paul Ryan because there were not enough votes to pass it.

“People ages 50 and over will see their costs rise,” said Hedderman. “The president said they were about four votes off. We heard it was 47. I think health care will be revisited. We are concerned that those people who need it will not be able to afford it. We don’t want to see changes to Medicare. We are going to be fighting for that. The new bill doesn’t even address prescription drug costs and Medicaid coverage. We will be at the table preserving Medicaid.”

Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, spoke about the uncertainty of environmental and health issues under the president. The Sierra Club members want to provide for a healthy environment from the shores of Lake Michigan to the forest preserves.

“I believe this is going to be a difficult time under this administration,” said Darin. “If you are old enough to know what Lake Michigan looked like in the 1970s, you will know what I mean. The Chicago River back then was an overgrown sewer.

“I am worried about the Trump administration,” Darin continued. “Scott Pruitt, who is the head of the EPA, has sued the EPA 14 times on behalf of oil companies. He believes that climate change is a hoax.”

Darin said that after the U.S. was in the height of the recession in 2009, the EPA helped initiate laws that made American vehicles that were more fuel efficient. Darin added that it was through the efforts of the EPA that consumers were provided with vehicles that ran well and were more fuel efficient

“Now we are putting on the brakes on fuel efficiency,” Darin said.

Darin added that the president wants to eliminate the Clean Water Act and add cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Act, which he said has kept the Asian carp out of Lake Michigan. Darin said the decisions have to be at the federal level and not the states. Five states share Lake Michigan and Darin said decisions to keep waters clean should be a concern of all governors.

He added that scientists who defend climate change should be supported. Darin does not agree with Pruitt, who he said believes there is an acceptable amount of lead for our lakes.

Dr. Laurie Joyner, the new president at St. Xavier University, told the crowd that the current budget impasse is making it difficult for students whose families cannot afford tuition and are not receiving the necessary financial assistance they need.

“Half of our students are Monetary Award Program (MAP) recipients,” Joyner said. “Lack of MAP funding will prevent talented but economically-challenged students from attending St. Xavier.”

Joyner believes the best advice she could give is to get involved.

“Be an active, engaged person in our society,” Joyner said. “Part of what we want for our students is to instill responsibility for the common good. “

Daniel Hertz, the senior policy analyst from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, said funding for state education has been reduced 40 percent since 2015. In terms of the pension crisis, the reason the problem exists is that legislators have not made the required payments for years, Hertz said.

He said that adjustments in proposed pension payments, brought up recently in the “Grand Bargain” bill that was rejected, may prove to be unconstitutional.

Hertz referred to the 1970 State Constitution in which pension benefits that have been promised to retired employees cannot be changed.

“They believe if you give up a little here, we will give you a little more here,” Hertz said. “We are going to have to find different sources of revenue.”

Hertz added that bankruptcy is not an option for Illinois. The state cannot declare bankruptcy because federal laws overrule state laws, he added.

Bury vs. Streit race heats up in Oak Lawn

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn’s contentious mayoral race between incumbent Dr. Sandra Bury and longtime Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) is winding down before the April 4 election, but the candidates have not lost their vim and vigor.

Bury, who owns and operates Complete Vision Care in the village, is seeking her second term in office. While Streit, who has been a trustee since 1991, is seeking his first. He has owned another Oak Lawn business, Sealtite Roofing, for more than 30 years. He is also president and managing member of Illinois Energy Aggregation.

The issues the campaign is revolving around include public safety and business development.

“She is an eye doctor but I am a businessman,” said Streit, arguing that he would have negotiated a better deal for the village when the village completed and sold the first phase of the Stony Creek Promenade commercial development at 111th and Cicero Avenue. Aside from Mariano’s and Cooper’s Hawk restaurant, he said many residents refer to the development as “an upscale food court” because of the number of fast-food restaurants there.

“I would hire a professional economic director and attract more upscale retail stores there. That is what the original plans called for,” said Streit, who maintains that the village invested $30 million in the development, and only received $7 million when it was sold for $35 million. “I will negotiate a better deal on behalf of our taxpayers (for the second phase of the Stony Creek development). They gave 80 percent of the profits to the developer.”

However, Bury said the financial split was decided when the promenade area was first drawn up, before she became mayor.

“Mr. Streit was on the board then and had his chance to negotiate a better deal if he wanted to,” said Bury.

“I am very happy with that development,” said the mayor. “The businesses that did open there are going like gangbusters, compared to their other locations elsewhere. It is unfair to criticize them because they are contributing a lot of tax money to Oak Lawn,” she said.

“It is very easy to be critical, but the longest-serving trustee is not running on his own record, or pointing to any of his accomplishments,” she added

Bury said talks are underway regarding the second phase of development of Stony Creek, just west of the current site. “We’re eager to rollout the second phase. Residents can look forward to seeing one or two date-night restaurants similar to Cooper’s Hawk, and a few nice retail stores.”

“We have a good team in place here. We’ve increased tax revenue and created more than 1,500 jobs. Building permits are at a 16-year high,” she said. “We are paying our police and fire pension debt. We are not treading water yet, but we have a plan in place,” she said.

Regarding the crime issue, Bury points to FBI statistics showing that crime levels are actually down through 2016, but Streit said the administration is ignoring the recent uptick in armed robberies and bank robberies that have people scared.

He said that only 10 of the 109 members of the police department are patrolling the village during any of the three shifts, and has proposed requiring all officers, in uniform or not, to go out on patrol in marked cars at least once a month.

“It needs to be village-wide. Marked police cars cut down on crime,” he said.

However, Bury said Police Chief Michael Murray is already doing that, moving officers around and increasing patrols as necessary. The chief did mention doing that at a recent village board meeting.

“It was being done even under the previous chief,” said Bury.

Streit also criticizes the decision to reduce fire department staffing, and rely more on overtime.

“We’re looking to find ways to do more with what we have. We do need more police and paramedics, but I see no need for more firefighters,” said Bury. “Fire Chief George Sheets has assured me that there has never been a threat to public safety. Especially with mutual aid between departments, there are always enough firefighters responding,” she said.

Streit has pledged to “make residents proud” of him if elected, and Bury said she is proud to serve Oak Lawn as its mayor.

Along with the mayoral race, there are trustee elections in three of the six village districts. The issues mirror those in the mayoral race, since three allies of Bury are running against three of Streit. In District 2, incumbent Alex Olejniczak is running for a fourth four-year term against Streit ally Glenn Schlesser, a former 911 dispatcher and current captain in the Village of Thornton Fire Department.

In District 4, incumbent Trustee Terry Vorderer, who retired from a 34-year career with the Oak Lawn Police Department, is being challenged in his bid for a second term by John Koss, also a Streit ally. Koss has his own business, Creative Door and Window, and works full-time as a BNSF railroad conductor.

Michael Carberry is stepping down after one term as 6th District trustee. There will be a change in that seat no matter who wins. But a familiar face, Tom Phelan, is seeking to retake the seat he held four years ago. He is a Bury ally, and is running against Jozettemarie “Jo” Palermo, a commodities trader and ally of Streit.

Village Clerk Jane Quinlan is running unopposed.

Parents look for signs of drug abuse in ‘teen bedroom’

  • Written by Kelly White

teen bedroom photo 3-30

Photo by Kelly White

Oak Lawn Community High School's Teen Substance Abuse Awareness Program last Thursday night featured a model teen bedroom where parents were able to point out at risk behavior among teens that are hidden in plain sight.



Parents visited Oak Lawn Community High School last Thursday night and were taken on a “tour” of what could be described as a teen’s bedroom.

But the model room was designed to educate parents on the possibility of drug abuse, which could be occurring under their roofs.

The staff at Oak Lawn Community High School assisted in educating parents on substance abuse, from behavior to addiction, during the Teen Drug Awareness Night at the high school, 9400 Southwest Highway. The event was open to parents of high school students, along with parents from Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School and Simmons Middle School. The event was a collaboration between the Oak Lawn Community Partnership and Serenity Family Outreach.

“This event was inspired by our commitment to providing our families and students with ongoing education and resources to meet the challenges of adolescence in a supportive environment,” said Melissa Schumacher, social worker for Oak Lawn Community High School. “It is geared toward parents. However, we encourage all parents to utilize the information shared to engage in an open dialogue with their children regarding substance abuse.”

Andy Duran, executive director of LEAD (Linking Efforts Against Drugs) organization, led the presentation. LEAD is based out of Lake Forest and has been working to educate parents and community members for over 20 years.

“We need to think differently about the way we discuss these topics with young people,” Duran said. “Scare tactics do not work anymore. We tell our kids not to drink or not to smoke, but we don’t tell them why or how not to.”

The educational presentation featured the model teen bedroom, which parents were able to explore to identify possible signs of at-risk behaviors. Parents also had the opportunity to walk through the exhibit and participate in an interactive discussion on prevention and identification of warning signs of possible substance use along with a list of local resources.

Parents who attended said they were impressed with the amount of knowledge available, including Amy Cryan, of Orland Park, who also teaches Family and Consumer Science at Oak Lawn Community High School.

“I have two teenage boys at home and I work with teens every day, all day,” she said. “I came here wanting to know new things that are happening, along with preventable methods.”

Drug use is not on the rise among teens. However, it is still a major concern, LEAD officials stressed.

“Addicts get to a point where they need to have a drink or do a drug in order to just feel normal,” Duran said. “They have reached a point where they are no longer even getting high.”

Duran said low perception of harm, easy access, pressure, anxiety and depression are all leading causes of drugs among today’s teens.

Research from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey indicates that there has been a decrease in overall drug use in teens in 2016. However, the rate of marijuana use throughout the U.S. continues to be of concern for seniors in high school, according to Schumacher.

Duran also noted there is no difference in potency in medical marijuana versus street sold marijuana.

Nationally, prescription narcotic drugs continue to present serious problems related to overdose and medical emergencies. During the presentation, parents were encouraged to monitor their medicine cabinet at home, control access to medications that can be abused and be aware of common signs of teenage drug abuse. Some concerns of teenage drug abuse, according to research, are lying, making excuses, breaking curfew, staying in their bedroom, becoming verbally or physically abusive toward others, mood swings and stealing.

“The consequences of addiction can be so severe and we don’t want any teen or family to endure that, which is why we want to focus on prevention,” Schumacher said.

If a parent is concerned that their child may be involved in substance abuse, contacting the family physician and a certified adolescent addiction counselor in order to complete an evaluation and discuss treatment recommendations is recommended. Representatives from local community agencies said that services will be provided. If a parents needs assistance, they can reach out the school social worker for a confidential discussion and to gather resources.

Along with the presentation, there were representative from local community agencies who provide services to adolescents on hand to share information and provide support to parents.

“It has been said that one of the main deterrents to adolescent substance use is engaged parents,” Schumacher said. “This presentation helped parents feel empowered to be actively involved and aware of risk-factors at the beginning stages before the issue escalates. It is our goal that parents receive current information related to adolescent substance use as well as access to resources they can utilize if they feel their child needs support.”

Lipinski urges Trump to fix Obamacare

  • Written by Tim Hadac

lipinski at meeting 3-30

Submitted photo

Cong. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) talks to a constituent following a meeting he attended on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Lipinski called on President Trump to work with Democrats to improve the Affordable Care Act, which is also known as Obamacare.

In the wake of last week’s failed effort by House Republicans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act — informally known as Obamacare — Cong.. Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) is calling on President Trump to set aside party politics and work with Democrats to improve health care for all.

Lipinski issued his call earlier this week at a senior citizen resource fair he hosted at a banquet hall on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

“We have to make sure that the [Trump] administration does not take any actions — without Congress - to purposely try to undermine the Affordable Care Act, to sabotage it — so that fewer people sign up to make it less economically viable for insurance companies to participate,” Lipinski told The Reporter. “If they do drive out insurance companies, you could drive it into a death spiral.”

Was ready to vote ‘no’

Had the GOP proposal come on the House floor for a vote last week, Lipinski would have voted against it.

“I was going to vote against the House Republican healthcare bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA),” the congressman said. “For seven years I have fought to make fixes to the Affordable Care Act to make it work better for America’s middle-class families, but I have consistently opposed repeal without a better replacement. 

“Unfortunately, this replacement would have made our healthcare system significantly worse, harming tens of millions of Americans, including some of our most vulnerable,” Lipinski continued. “It is good for the American people that this bill has been stopped.

He said a Congressional Budget Office analysis indicated that 24 million fewer Americans would have health insurance under the Republican plan and out-of-pocket costs would go up significantly for older Americans. 

“Further last-minute changes made in the middle of the night would have meant that Americans’ insurance coverage would be worse,” he added. “On top of all this, the bill would repeal a cap on the amount a health insurance company can deduct from their taxes for the compensation of executives, resulting in a transfer of $400 million from American taxpayers to these companies and executives. I offered an amendment to strike this provision of the bill on behalf of American taxpayers, but Republicans would not even allow a vote on my amendment.”

Wary of White House reaction

While some news analysts have said Trump will work to improve Obamacare—if only because letting it fail or sabotaging it could prove politically disastrous for the president—Lipinski and other Democrats remain wary after hearing Trump’s reaction.

Late last week, Trump essentially said he would walk away from efforts to fix Obamacare. “The best thing politically is to let Obamacare explode,” he told the Washington Post.

The president’s surrogates, including Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, echoed that view and dug in their heels politically.

“You cannot fix a broken system,” Mulvaney said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “This is a system built on the idea that the government could force you to do something you didn’t want, and that would make you happy. You are never going to fix that. This system must be removed. It must be repealed and replaced. And you’re not going to fix a system that doesn’t trust people to do what’s in their best interest. And that’s what Obamacare does.”

Hoping for common ground

Lipinski said it is “time for Republicans to sit down with Democrats and make the fixes to our healthcare system that will help rein in the costs of healthcare and expand coverage without diminishing care.

“Are there things we can come to agreement on? I’m not sure yet. I hope there are,” he said.

“Last week in the House, we passed something that took away the anti-trust exemption that health insurance companies enjoy,” the congressman concluded. “That passed, about 400-30…this was essentially a Democratic idea from 2009 that Republicans opposed at the time, but they have changed their stance, so it passed with bipartisan support. So I think there’s some hope, but we have to turn away from this idea of making every issue a partisan battle. Regardless of party, we’re supposed to be working to make things better for people. It’s that simple.”