Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: After this summer, I can't wait for spring baseball

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


St. Laurence baseball coach Pete Lotus was picking up his daughter, Easton, at Midway International Airport on Saturday afternoon as she returned from California from a 14U softball tournament with the Beverly Bandits.

While waiting for her, Lotus kept checking his phone for the ESPN feed of the Little League Senior World Series. Seven of the 16 players on the Clear Ridge roster are from St. Laurence.

Saturday was the championship game and Clear Ridge beat Australia, 7-2, at Mansfield Park in Bangor, Maine and Lotus was one of the happiest guys at the airport.

“It was great to see those guys play well,” Lotus said. “What a great experience for those kids. To play on national television is a pretty cool experience.’’

High school football is a couple of Fridays away and it’s easy to get excited for that. I know I am.

But I am also anxious for April and May to start rolling around. When you have a plethora of players from a World Series champion – including pitchers Gage Olszak and Zach Verta, who racked up wins in and picked up hits in the semifinals and finals respectively – it’s easy to get giddy about the season.

Not too far away from the Burbank school is Brother Rice. It used a bunch of young players mixed with established players to make it to the Phil Lawler Summer Classic championship game, where it lost by a run to Plainfield South in July.

These two teams are loaded again this season and St. Rita (which had three players on Clear Ridge), Mt. Carmel and three-time defending Class 4A state champion Providence are also in the Chicago Catholic League Blue.

“It’s pretty crazy – even though it’s so far away, you can’t wait for it to come,” Lotus said. “I guess it will get here before you know it.’’

Brother Rice, which was ranked in the top 10 in the nation during the season by USA Today before being upset by the Vikings in the sectional final at St. Rita in the spring, has Reporter/Regional Player of the Year Ryan Kutt returning and some other stars including Jack Guzek, Sam Jones, Jake Ridgway and Ryan King mixed in with promising up-and-comers who were hot in summer league play.

“We wanted to win the tournament and we’re disappointed we didn’t win it,” Kutt said after the Lawler Tournament. “But overall, lot of players got a chance to show what they can do and I can’t wait until next spring.’’

We have some more hot weather and a whole bunch of cold weather ahead before we see these stars on the baseball field again.

I’m sure that starting in a few weeks, we’ll all find a way to amuse ourselves before then.

New players but same road result for Fire

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



CATPION Photo by T.J. Vorva

Arturo Alvarez, playing in a game earlier this season, scored his third goal on Saturday night in a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.


WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: The Fire played a man down for 58 minutes after Michael Harrington was tossed from the game and forged a 1-1 tie with Orlando City on March 11 in Florida. David Accam scored in the 15th minute for the Fire.


There are 13 games left on the Major League Soccer schedule left for the Chicago Fire, which means there are 39 points left on the board for the team to gobble up.

But if it has any chance of being a playoff team, it needs to win away from Toyota Park.

While officials are busy making changes to the roster, one thing that just doesn’t change at all is the inability to win an MLS game on the road and that’s what ultimately could cost the Fire a shot at the playoffs as it limped into this week with a league-worst 4-11-6 mark and 18 points.

The Fire dropped a 3-1 game against Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah and has not won on the road in 36 matches and more than two years.

Prior to that, the team acquired striker Luis Solignac Aug. 3 from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for General Allocation Money and on the same day acquired striker David Arshakyan from Lithuanian A Lyga side FK Trakai. The Armenian international signed a two-year deal with club options for the third and fourth years, and will be added to the Fire roster upon receipt of his ITC and P1 Visa. 

Solignac played all 90 minutes Saturday.

"It is tough to come the day before and play but I think the second half I got in touch with the guys, we got to know each other so we will improve day by day," he said. “I think that we bounced back in the second half. The attitude was totally different and we got a goal. But after we conceded one right away but I think we had a good spirit and that's a positive thing." 

Arturo Alvarez scored the Fire’s lone goal at the 58-minute mark – his third goal of the season.

Javier Moralez scored two goals for Real Salt Lake (10-7-7).

The Fire started a mixed lineup as they built toward their record 12th appearance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal against the New England Revolution, which, it also lost, 3-1 on Tuesday. Goalie Sean Johnson plus regular players Matt Polster and Joey Calistri did not play. Khaly Thiam was ineligible because the MSL suspended him and hit him up for an undisclosed fine for serious foul play in the 37th minute against the New York Red Bulls on July 31.

"We always want to win.” Fire coach Veljko Paunopvic said. “The issue we have on our squad we have to manage the best possible way to start with the lineup we started. I believe we had enough proof that we wanted to win this game with this starting lineup. Our mind is the next game and that's how we always play. Like I said we are looking ahead to our next game and we are very excited. We have to recover from this loss and we have to recover the spirit and the positive energy in order to prepare well." 

As for the new guys, Solignac scored three goals and racked up four assists in 33 league matches since joining the Rapids on May 1, 2015.

"Simply, Luis is a good footballer," said Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez. "He has soft feet, is mobile, understands how to play in combination and is familiar with the demands of the League. We expect him to contribute right away."

Arshakyan began his professional career with Armenian side FC Mika in 2012 and made three Premier League appearances as his side captured the 2012-13 Armenian Super Cup. 

The 21-year-old made the move to FK Trakai prior to the start of the 2015 season. In 34 league appearances, Arshakyan scored 25 goals and had six multi-goal games, including three hat tricks, finishing the season just three goals shy the top scorer.

"As we tracked David, we were impressed by his winning attitude and ability to score goals in a variety of different ways," Rodriguez said. "He has a very good soccer IQ, imagination and obvious size. David also expressed a keen desire to join our club in particular and to help us build a championship program." 

This season, Arshakyan scored nine goals in 18 appearances, including a hat trick in a 4-3 win over Utenis Utena on July 28. 


Fire and Red Stars analysis

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Kennedy Igboananike, shown in a game earlier this season, was dealt from the Fire to D.C. United on Friday. He had nearly 25 percent of the Fire’s goals this season at the tie of the trade.


Chicago Fire at Real Salt Lake

WHEN: 9 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah


REAL SALT LAKE RECORD: 9-6-7 (as of Sunday)

LAST TIME: Salt Lake won 2-1 in Bridgeview May 9, 2015 as Alvaro Saborio and Luke Mulholland scored while the Fire’s Jeff Larentowicz was able to find that back of the net in the 88th minute on a penalty kick.

Another late goal robs Fire of victory


Chicago Fire officials continue to perform surgery on their roster while Sunday night another late goal let up by the defense cut the heart right out of the team.

Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls scored his 12th goal of the season in the 90th minute to tie the Fire 2-2 Sunday in a Major League Soccer game in front of an announced crowd of 17,221 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

The Fire (4-10-6) suffered either losses or ties five times this year when opponents scored in the 85th minute or later.

This one really got to rookie coach Veljko Paunovic.

"Losing these two points for me is tougher than any other defeat we have had this year,’’ Paunovic said. “I think that maturity and mentality comes in play and I think that we did most of the things very well but we have to learn how to win games. Positive side is that we came back from the early goal against New York. That is the positive side but we have to learn how to manage the game and keep that result or even increase the lead so we move forward.

“We played tough which is a part of our identity. After having to react to a negative result in the first half we have to learn to either score the third goal which is something that we were looking for in the second half. Starting the second half that was our goal but then you don't concede, you have to go and keep the score especially in the last five or ten minutes."

David Accam scored his team-high fifth goal of the year and Matt Polster added one for the Fire, but was also the victim of knocking the ball into his own net to allow New York (10-9-4) the first score of the night in the 16th minute.

"(Goalie) Sean (Johnson) and I talked at halftime --  it looked like Sean was going to have it, but then I looked and it kind of hung up there, so then last second I went for it and just a little miscommunication,” Polster said. “I didn't hear anything, but I also should have just cleared it myself. I think sometimes you just have to take it into your own hands and just do it. I second-guessed myself and that's on me." 

The loss came two days after the team traded Kennedy Igboananike to D.C. United for Target Allocation Money and the natural third-round selection in the 2019 SuperDraft.

The Designated Player had four goals which, at the time of the trade tied Accam for first on the team, and one assist. The team had an MLS-low 17 goals at the time of the deal so he accounted for nearly 25 percent of the scoring. He will continue to be classified as a Designated Player on the roster and will remain on the Fire’s payroll. Some may view this move that the Fire has given up on its chances for the playoffs but officials said they had planned on making some moves to acquire players this week.

"Moves like this are needed in order to execute our plan for roster development," said general manager Nelson Rodriguez. "Kennedy puts his heart into his work and has served this club well. We wish him the best in D.C. and wherever his career leads him."


 Long rest comes at a good time for Red Stars


And now, some rest.

A lot of rest.

The Chicago Red Stars knocked off the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League champion, FC Kansas City, 1-0, Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 2,550. Newcomer Stephanie McCaffrey scored the lone goal in the 53rd minute and goalie Michele Dalton notched the shutout.

The league takes an extended break because so many of its stars are competing in the Olympics and the Red Stars’ next game will be Aug. 27 at Sky Blue FC and their next home game will be Sept. 4 against the Seattle Reign.

Red Stars coach Rory Dames, whose team is 7-4-4, is happy for the break as some of his players are banged up. They were given a full week off this week and practice begins again next week.  

“This group has worked very hard the last four and-a-half weeks,” Dames said. “Some of the players are being held together by tape. They need to get away and take a break and get ready for the home stretch – where is always seems to come down to.’’

McCaffrey, who was traded from Boston to the Red Stars July 22, made her first start and provided the lone offense as the team is 4-0-3 at home.

“I should have walked away with more than one,” McCaffrey said. “This team puts the forwards in a lot of good positions.’’

KC fell to 4-7-4.

After the game, the team retired the number – 17 -- of Lori Chalupny, a 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist and 2015 FIFA World Cup champion who played with the Red Stars for four years.



Passafiume in line to be next Richards boys basketball coach

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Chris Passafiume has been recommended by Richards Athletic Director Ken Styler and a search committee to become the new boys basketball coach at the Oak Lawn school.

The Evergreen Park resident will replace Jevon Mamon, who took a job at Hyde Park’s coach after two years with the Bulldogs. Passafiume was the Bulldogs’ sophomore coach last season and has taught and coached in District 218 since 2010. He has also coached boys and girls soccer at the school.

More information will be found in the Aug. 4 edition of the Regional and Reporter.


High School Roundup: Richards' Mamon heading to Hyde Park

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Calling it one of the "most difficult decisions" he had to make, Jevon Mamon recently resigned as Richards' boys basketball coach to take over as the coach at Hyde Park.

Mamon's teams went 14-14 and 14-14 in the two years he was coach at the Oak Lawn school but this year could be a breakout year. Jaylan Catledge is a two-time Regional-Reporter Player of the Year and could be back and freshman Sean Willis made an impact after being brought in in the middle of the season.

"These kids at Richards were great and gave me everything that they had," Mamon said. "I appreciate that. The kids know if they ever need me, I'll be there for them. We're still a family.''

More information will be available in the Aug. 4 edition of the Regional and Reporter.

Reed ready to hit ground running at St. Laurence

St. Laurence officials replaced a retired 40-year cross country and track coach with a guy who has plenty of local and national ties to the running world.

Darrell Reed takes the helm of both sports for Terry Murphy, who retired in the spring. Reed spent the last four years as an assistant track coach at Lincoln-Way East and has coaching experience at De La Salle, Jones College Prep, the Merrillville Track Club in Indiana and is an official with the USA Track and Field organization.

“I’m extremely excited for the opportunity that our athletic director and the St. Laurence family have given me,” Reed said. “One of my goals as a head coach is to teach our young men the value of a four-part philosophy - God, coach, athlete and community. In addition, my staff and I would like to challenge our young athletes to not be afraid to win - in the classroom, on the track and in life.”

The Mokena resident and his wife, Carla, have two children (Christopher and Camille) who will be a part of the Lewis University track programs in the coming seasons.

“We are extremely excited to add a coach of Darrell’s character, energy and enthusiasm to lead our track and field and cross country programs,” said St. Laurence Athletic Director Tim Chandler. “His vision and goals for the programs are aligned with those of the athletic department, and I am confident that he will add to the impressive success that Viking athletics has achieved over the recent years.” 

Prior to coaching, Reed was a two-sport athlete running track and playing baseball in high school. He received a scholarship to play both sports in college at Florida State University before an injury in summer ball ended his career.

Marist All-American wrestlers

Marist wrestlers Michael Laveille and Jacob Dado earned All-America status after competing in the Asics/Vaughan Cadet Junior National Championships last week in North Dakota.

Laveille took seventh place at 100 pounds in the Junior Greco division while Dado was eighth in the 132 division of the Cadet Freestyle division. 

 13 is a good number for Shepard runner

Paul Milkus of Shepard finished 13th out of 449 runners in the Detweiler at Dark high school boys race Friday at Detweiler Park in Peoria – the site of the Illinois High School Association state cross country meets.

Milkus ran 15 minutes, 45 seconds over the course. Also in the top 100, Palos Heights’ Joey Iaquinta was 88th.

On the girls side, Lyons Township’s Sarah Barcelona took 14th out of 314 runners with an 18:32 and teammate Cara Paliakas was 48th.

High rollers

Orland Park’s Emily Schrader, a junior-to-be at Sandburg, finished in 148th place out of 792 bowlers in the United States Bowling Congress Junior Gold 20-under division in Indianapolis last week. She shot an average of 177.06 for 16 games.

Oak Lawn’s Alex Wozniak took 274th, Burbank’s Ashley Kuba was 289th and Oak Lawn’s Peyton Attig was 740th.

 Smith puts up another zero

Richards graduate Angelo Smith threw a scoreless inning in the Double Duty Classic at U.S. Cellular Field on July 19.

It was the second time Smith was invited to the showcase. Last year, he threw two scoreless innings.