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Basti boils as Fire loses to Minnesota

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Bastian Schweinsteiger argues with the officials after the Fire was upset, 2-1, by expansion team Minnesota on Saturday night in Bridgeview. 

 

CHICAGO FIRE AT MONTREAL IMPACT

WHEN: 6 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Stade Saputo, Montreal

FIRE’S RECORD: 12-9-5

MONTREAL’S RECORD: 10-9-6

NOTEWORTHY: The Fire’s last road game was in Montreal and the Impact pulled off a 3-0 on Aug. 16 victory to drop Chicago’s record on the road to 2-7-4.

 

The face of the Fire was not smiling much on Saturday night.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, the man with the million-watt and million-dollar smile, had a lot of frowns and scowls as the Fire dropped a 2-1 decision to Minnesota United FC in front of an announced crowd of 18,048 at Toyota Park. It’s the Fire’s fourth straight loss and sixth setback in its last seven games and second straight loss in Bridgeview. And it came to an expansion team that entered the night 6-14-4 and was tied with Colorado for the worst record in Major League Soccer.

The Fire still entered this week in relatively decent shape for a playoff appearance as it was in fourth place in the East Division with a 12-9-5 mark, but the downward spiral is getting to the players.

Schweinsteiger kicked the ball in disgust at halftime when the Fire was trailing 2-0 (thanks to two Abu Danladi goals) and gave the referees and earful. He was whistled for a yellow card at the 84th minute and after the game he appeared to give officials a sarcastic handshake before barking at them some more.

Despite his frustrations, he was named by the fans as the Man of the Match.

The German star did not talk to the media after the game and the gloomy locker room was only broken up by aggravation. Agitated Dax McCarty wants the team to get back on the same level it was when it was tied with Toronto with the MLS’s best record in July.

"We've always had a sense of urgency but clearly now, with the way things have gone in the last couple of games, I think that needs to be ramped up to another level,” he said. “The playoffs are certainly not a certainty right now so we need to make sure we stay positive and try to get back on the right track."

McCarty joined the U.S. Men’s National Team Monday and will miss Saturday’s action at Montreal.

The Fire outshot Minnesota 20-8 and had a 57-percent possession advantage but those two usually important stats did not produce a victory.

"I am worried, I'm actually not happy with the performance on defense,’’ Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We concede very easy goals, I think we can always go back and see the individual mistakes but also the collective mistakes and both are what kills us. However, we're working on that. Today the back line worked very well actually as a unit. But those individual mistakes we couldn't fix in those moments. We have to get back to where we have more clean sheets, especially at home. That's our goal, that's something that has to become the priority and were working on that." 

David Accam scored his 14th goal of the season (with an assist from Schweinsteiger) to stay hot. Nemanja Nikolic, however, is scoreless in eight straight games after opening up his Fire career with 16 goals in the first 18 games.

 

 

Wrestling legend Bill Weick dies at 85

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Stock in Mary Jane candy and a couple of cigar factories may have taken a dip.

Anyone who knew Brother Rice wrestling coach Bill Weick, who died Aug. 15 at age 85, loved his cigars and his Mary Jane candy. And he loved wrestling even more.

The Chicago Ridge resident loved the sport so much, he was willing to spend any time he could trying to teach it to various generations of grapplers.

Weick touched many lives during his career as a wrestler and coach, which also included stints with the U.S. Olympic team and Mount Carmel. Even in his eighth decade on earth, he was never too busy to teach.

“A few years ago, I was able to witness some of the magic of Bill Weick,’’ Robert Tipsword wrote on a USA Wrestling message board. “He had his Brother Rice team at a tournament at Buffalo Grove High School. The Buffalo Grove youth wrestling team happened to be practicing in an adjacent gym. During a break in the high school tournament, we found Bill working with the kids on the youth wrestling team.

“A great man, sharing some of his vast knowledge with the little guys.”

It’s likely impossible to figure out how many “little guys” he taught who grew up to be great wrestlers and great members of society, but there were a lot. USA Wrestling President Bruce Baumgartner, a two-time Olympic champion and three-time World champion, told the USA Wrestling website about how much Weick shaped his career.

“Bill Weick was my personal coach at the Olympic Games and World Championships many times. He was instrumental in developing the skills, work ethic and mental toughness that set the foundation for my success over the years,’’ he said. “I first met Bill in 1981, when he was coach of the World University Team. It was one of the toughest camps I had ever gone to. It was my second international experience, and I won. I owe a lot of my success to many coaches, and Bill was one of them who made a difference and set the groundwork for my success.’’

“He was known for old-school toughness and love,’’ added Lee Roy Smith, the executive directior of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “He would make you laugh and challenge you to do what was best for you to become a better wrestler. It was much more than you thought you could do. He helped wrestlers get their hands raised at all levels. He coached from youth to the juniors to high school and up to the Olympic level. There was nobody else like Bill. He had a way to get inside wrestlers and make a difference for them.”

His first coaching job was at Maquoketa High School in Iowa, before returning to Illinois to coach at Tilden Tech, where he had won a state title in 1949.

He coached 21 state champs at Mt.Carmel including Olympic star Joe Williams.  Weick took over the Brother Rice program in 2004 and nine years later, Rudy Yates became the school’s first state champion. Under his watch, the Crusaders had 41 state qualifiers.

The Rice wrestling room was dedicated to him in May 2015 and that ceremony featured an appearance from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.



Vistatation for Weick was Sunday at the Curley Funeral Home and the funeral mass was held at Most Holy Redeemer Church in Evergreen Park. 

High school season just started and history is made

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Supplied photo

Golfer Maddy Misicka became the first female to participate in an IHSA event for St. Laurence.

 

The new high school sports season is in its infant stages and there is already some history for the area to brag about.

The first came on Thursday when St. Laurence’s Maddy Misicka became the first female in the 56-year history of the former all-boys school to participate in an Illinois High School Association event when she shot a 93 at the St. Laurence Invitational at Lincoln Oaks Golf Course in Crete.

The senior from Burbank is a former Queen of Peace student who made it to sectional play last season.

Several other fall sports open play Monday and on Tuesday, Mother McAuley’s volleyball team will honor some history of its own.

The school will host the raising of the IHSA Class 4A state and national championship volleyball banners at 6 p.m. in the school’s gym (3737 W. 99th St., Chicago). The team won its 15th state title last year and was recognized by three organizations for winning the national championship.

Also, senior Charley Niego will be honored for winning the Gatorade Player of the Year while Jen DeJarld will be recognized for a national coach of the year honor.

The ceremony will take place between the junior varsity and varsity matches against Joliet Catholic Academy.

Guest Jim Cornelison will sing the “Star Spangled Banner’’ during the program. There will also be a performances by the McAuley a cappella choir and members of the Brother Rice/Mother McAuley marching band.

 

Let's talk about playoffs with Fire, Red Stars and ThunderBolts

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

The Chicago Fire and Matt Polster have been soaring this season and are in good position to make their first MLS postseason appearance since 2012.

 

It was about 16 years ago that former Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Mora made his famous rant about how bad his team was playing.

When a reporter asked him about the Colts’ possibility of making the playoffs, he yelped/barked “Playoffs? Don’t talk about—playoffs? You kidding me? Playoffs?! I just hope we can win a game. Another game.’’

Well around here, three of the area professional teams in or bordering this newspaper’s coverage area are making a run at the postseason in their respective sports and leagues.

Playoffs? To heck with Mora -- let’s talk about playoffs.

The Chicago Fire, which had the worst record in Major League Soccer the past two seasons, is in prime position for the playoffs. The Chicago Red Stars have been trading first- and second-place positions with North Carolina in the National Women’s Soccer League and also are eying the postseason with a decent seed.  In baseball, the Windy City ThunderBolts have been on the cusp for a slot in the Frontier League playoffs.

So here is a look at the past, present and future of the three area teams regarding postseason bids in 2017:

Chicago Fire

Past:  The Fire’s first MLS season was successful in 1998 as it not only made the playoffs but it also won the MLS Cup with a 2-0 victory over D.C. United.

It never got that good again.

Still, the team made the playoffs with regularity early in franchise history, making the postseason from 1999 to 2003 before failing to qualify in 2004. It went on a five-year run making the playoffs from 2005 to 2009 before hitting a dry spell.

Since 2010, the Fire made the playoffs just once in 2012 and lost in the knockout round to Houston, 2-1.

With back-to-back seasons of 8-20-6 in 2015 and 7-17-10 in 2016, a playoff appearance this year would be a refreshing change for Fire fans.

Present: The Fire headed into this week with a 12-6-5 mark, good for 41 points. The team was third in the MLS East behind Toronto (47 points) and New York City FC (43). Toronto visits the Fire at 7 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, where the Fire owns a 10-0-1 record and a nine-game winning streak.

The past two seasons, the MLS expanded the playoffs the door for six teams in each conference to make the postseason. In 2015, it took 42 points to make it to the playoffs. In 2016, it took 49.

Future: The playoffs start in late October and extend all the way to early December.

If the Fire keeps up its current pace, making the playoffs won’t be a problem and it might get a high enough seed where postseason soccer will be back in Bridgeview.

Chicago Red Stars

Past: The Red Stars joined the NWSL in 2015 and made the four-team playoff round by finishing second out of nine teams but lost in the first round of the playoffs to defending-champion and third-seeded FC Kansas City, 3-0.

Last year, they finished third in the 10-team league and lost in the first round to second-seeded Washington, 2-1.

Present: The Red Stars enter this week with an 8-4-5 mark and had a match scheduled against Seattle Wednesday night at Toyota Park. They will host Kansas City at 7 p.m. Sunday.

They fell to third place after a 3-2 loss to Portland over the weekend. North Carolina entered the week with 36 points, Portland 31 and Chicago 29.

The Red Stars have one more game against NC – a home game on Sept. 3. Chicago beat NC 3-1 on the road May 21 and 3-2 in Bridgeview on May 27.

The team is hoping that Saturday’s debut of Japanese star Yuki Nagasato will help turn this team into a championship contender.

Future: The top four teams make it to the semifinals and will battle it out Oct. 7-8 and the top two seeds will serve as hosts.

The NWSC Championship match will be held Oct. 14 in Orlando.

The Red Stars have proven that they are one of the elite teams in the league and are gunning to get past that semifinal round and into the title game.

Windy City ThunderBolts

Past: Since being changed from the Cook County Cheetahs to the Windy City ThunderBolts in 2004, they have gone to the Frontier League playoffs four times.

In 2007, it won its first Frontier League title sweeping Rockford in three games in the division series and knocking off Washington in five games of the best-of-five championship series.

In 2008, the Bolts won its second title beating Southern Illinois, 3-1, in the division series and sweeping Kalamazoo in three games in the championship series.

The Bolts made it back to the playoffs in 2009 and 2010 but lost in the division series both times. Windy City has not been back to the playoffs since.

Present: The Thunderbolts entered this week with a 41-35 mark and are still in contention to snag one of the wild-card spots in the four-team Frontier League playoffs. They were one percentage point ahead of the River City Rascals for that slot. The league takes the top team in each division and the two wild-card teams with the best records.

Future: The Frontier League playoffs open Sept. 5 with the divisional round while the championship round is scheduled to open Sept. 12.

The T-Bolts chances of making it to the playoffs are on the iffy side because they lost four strong pitchers – Scott Kuzminsky, Kyle Von Ruden, Kevin Lenik and Brady Muller – who were selected by major league organizations.

 

 

ThunderBolts have good pair on the air

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mike Rankin, left, and Terry Bonadonna have been calling the action for the Windy City ThunderBolts this year. 

 

Another year, another partner.

Windy City ThunderBolts radio announcer Terry Bonadonna is in his eighth season behind the microphone and has had seven interns working with him.

His seventh partner has given him a different dynamic this season.

Michael Rankin, a Palos Hills resident and Stagg graduate who is about to enter his final semester at St. Xavier University, played baseball in high school and Trinity Christian College and that is something that is uncommon on minor league and independent league broadcasts.

“He played baseball, which is rare,” Bonadonna said. “Usually what you get is somebody who is a nerd like I am who is trying to work on becoming a broadcaster. You usually have two guys who are trained in play-by-play and both have the same strengths and same weaknesses. You don’t usually complement each other that way.

“Mike actually played the game and studied play-by-play, too, so he can handle that aspect of it. When he is doing color, which is two-thirds of the game, he can break down the game in a way that another announcer can’t.  That allows us to complement each other.’’

Some broadcasts can be heard on the St. Xavier radio station WXAV (88.3 FM) while others are on the Internet.

Rankin realized that he probably wasn’t going to be talented enough to play at Wrigley Field so he started thinking of other options to stay around the game for as long as he can.

“Growing up, baseball was my life,” he said. “I played up until my junior year in college. But I knew I wanted to get into the journalism field my senior year in high school, so I started writing a blog and got into podcasting on my own. That evolved into the overall aspect of broadcasting at St. Xavier. It worked out perfectly.’’

Rankin was on the broadcast team that called a majority of SXU women’s basketball games as the Cougars finished second in the nation in NAIA Division II play.

“I loved every minute of it,” Rankin said of the postseason. “Even though they lost in the championship, it was a great experience.’’

He is working on his own broadcasting style for baseball, but he will pull a few elements from some of the established announcers.

 “I take notes on a lot of different styles,” he said. “I grew up watching a lot of baseball on television. It’s much different than on radio, so I’ve been listening to a lot of different guys. No one could be another (Cubs announcer) Pat Hughes, but I feel out the style that he is doing. I listen to (Ed) Farmer of the White Sox. I mix and match and add my own sort of style. I’m still my own person.’’

Rankin is scheduled to graduate in December and is getting his resume and tapes ready to send to potential bosses.

“At this point, this is where I want to be,” he said. “I’m going to continue working and getting better. I know it’s a tough field to break into. But I have confidence in myself and I’m going to put myself out there and hopefully someone will take a bite.’’

He said he likes learning from Bonadonna, who was named the Frontier League Broadcaster of the Year in 2016.

“I really appreciate the way he allows me to work,” Rankin said. “He has the confidence in me to let me take care of what I need to take care of. We talk about things I need to work on but he lets me go and I’m starting to learn a lot on my own.

“It’s great working with him because he knows the Frontier League like the back of his hand. He’s on top of a lot of things. He calls me out on trivia questions. He’s brilliant.’’

Bonadonna is from Berwyn and graduated from Fenwick High School and SXU. He said that working with a new partner each year has its challenges.

“I would like to say we’re best buddies and have great chemistry from the start and all the way throughout,” Bonadonna said. “But the fact is that sometimes we may not get to where you want to get to. It’s difficult trying to learn the broadcasting style of a different guy ever year. I try to stay as steady as possible. I try to work them in and tell them how I am going to say something so I can work them into the broadcast. It’s not always easy.’’

While Rankin primarily does home games, Bonadonna calls all the games at home and on the road. That day-by-day grind, coupled with bus travel across the Midwest, is something he actually enjoys.

“I don’t like off days,’’ he said. “We had a two-day stretch where we didn’t have games in July and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

“The bus rides can be a hassle but I love being in a new city every week. I like to walk around the towns and explore different areas. It’s fun to go to different ballparks and seeing the ins and outs of other operations. I love it all.’’