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JEFF VORVA'S EXTRA POINT -- Put that sex appeal and sizzle on hold for a while

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Columnsig924

New Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez is building a team his way.

It might seem a little boring right now. He knows that.

He doesn’t care.

It’s his neck on the line and if he is going to turn things around, he has to do it the way he sees fit.

A lot of players that he is bringing to the United States to kick the ball around are not huge names. He is taking a practical approach to molding this team and big headlines are not what he is going for when signing guys.

 “Constructing this team is a marathon,” he said. “It’s more important to us to pursue our targets as we have them prioritized. At the end of the day, what the fan will remember long-term is whether you won or lost and how you played in those games. It’s easy to go for a public relations’ splash. That might excite some people in the short term. But as soon as they get on the field, that PR splash is forgotten.

“Our fans deserve a winner and we’re committed to build a winner. The sex-appeal and the sizzle will come later.’’

How much later?

Trying to scoop up a handful of mercury might be easier than to pin down sports officials on timelines these days.

In recent years, coaches and general managers have been burned when predicting a timeline for the return of an injured star athlete so most of them have just given up.

It’s the same way when it comes to the timeline of building a winner.

In the last six seasons, the local pro soccer club has missed the playoffs five times. In that span the team has twice more losses and ties (138) than wins (63).

Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic have been busy wheeling and dealing to try to bring a winning product to Bridgeview’s Toyota Park when the MLS season opens on March 6.

There are going to be a lot of new faces on this club and I have a hunch that getting to the playoffs might not be in the works this year. My timeline for that type of success is 2017 or 2018.

But these two are not using a timeline.

Rodriguez is already using the dreaded p-word – patience.

“Give us a chance to put our plan into action,” he said. “Then be a little patient as it starts to unfold.’’

Just like Cubs fans have to be patient?

“God bless the Cubs fan. God bless any one of them who has lived that long since their last championship,’’ Rodriguez said. “Look, I’m realistic. I won’t be here if it takes too long. I understand that and accept that. It’s about a 34-game season and hopefully making the playoff and building from there. It’s a process that is ongoing.’’

Process – that other p-word.

Paunovic knows that one, too.

“It’s a process,” he said. “We want to be ready from the start. We want to be ready to play with heart and character and always want to win. If we do that on the field, I know the fans will be very happy with that.

“I’m sure that on March 6, we will be ready to do that. We are not saying we will win everything but I want to be clear that we will always give our best in every game.’’

Will their best be good enough to reverse the recent trend?

Probably not yet.

But if Rodriguez is getting the right ingredients from abroad  -- sexy or not -- and the team can develop some players on its lowers levels, it might not be long before the Fire is playing postseason soccer again.

Bowling ball Scandal strikes at state

  • Written by Anthony Nasella

PAGE 1 QUINN Shaun 2015 State

After two years of narrowly missing the cut to advance to the IHSA State Individual bowling finals, Evergreen Park junior Shaun Quinn finally got his shot at this past weekend’s state meet O’Fallon and finished 15th.

But he almost missed a chance to compete on the second day thanks to a bowling ball controversy.

IHSA officials at first would not allow him to use his Scandal bowling ball, made by Hammer and he rolled a 603 series using an alternate ball. After the apparent miscommunication was sorted out by IHSA officials, the lefty would use the Scandal to shoot a 698 in the afternoon session.

He finished 51st on the first day, which was good enough to move on and then he heated up at St. Clair Bowl on Saturday to finish 15th.

“The first day was rough because there was a question about my ball being illegal,” Quinn said. “Thankfully, the ball was finally cleared and I was able to throw it in the afternoon. I came out fresh and kept connecting on shot after shot. I just moved on from there and hoped for the best.

“With a 1,301 [six-game] series, I wasn’t sure if that was going to enough advance to next day given the incredible competition. Thankfully I advanced and I was able to use my ball all day on Saturday.”

And Saturday was when Quinn really shined, rolling a 235 and 268 during a 723 series in the morning session and starting the afternoon with a 278 before cooling off with a 219 and 203 to close out the tournament with a 2,724 in 12 games.  That total  was just nine pins less than the amazing effort turned in four years ago by Sandburg’s Joey Kopera, who won the individual state title in 2012.

“I came out ready and was confident with the ball I wanted to use from the first day,” Quinn said. “The 723 in the first session definitely boosted my confidence going into the afternoon. The 278 was a great start, but then I struggled with carry in the final two games.

“At the end of the day, I can’t be mad at myself for any letdown because I battled back and came up in the top 20. So there’s really nothing to complain about. I can’t wait for the chance to get back to state.”

Stevenson junior Zach Singer reigned as the 2016 individual champion with a staggering 2,899 pins for a 241.6 average.

Evergreen Park coach Ron Pula said he was proud of Quinn’s ability to not only adjust to the early distraction but then rise above it and post upper-tier scores the rest of the way.

“Shaun did a great job bouncing back Friday afternoon,” Pula said. “I thought, at first, he missed the cut. After missing the cut for state by 14 and 18 pins the past two years, I challenged him to show everybody who he is that he belongs at state. He demonstrated that on Friday.

“And he really showed that he belong there the way he bowled on Saturday. He just kept chipping away and kept moving up. I’m as proud of him as you can believe.”

Sandburg rolled a 12,915 and placed sixth, which is the best finish in school history for the Eagles. The Eagles entered the second day in 10th place.

Sandburg junior Tommy Hayes finished 30th with a 221 average and 2,652 pins. Freshman teammate Cameron Crowe, a conference, regional and sectional champ, placed 39th with a 218.2 average and 2,618 pins, and fellow Eagle Danny Griskell was 43rd with a 217 average and 2,612 pins.  

Stagg junior Sean Murray, who started the state finals with a 289 game to lead the field after the first game, finished 40th with a 217.9 average and 2,615 pins. Also, junior Juan Escamilla of St. Laurence averaged 212.2 with 2,546 pins, which was good for 59th place.

For Quinn, his finish continues a trend of local bowlers competing at a high level in O’Fallon. Oak Lawn’s Ryan Kirby placed 12th last season and 13th in 2012-13. Marist’s Pete Switalkski finished in 11th in 2012-13.

A former Marist bowler, Joshuan Glover, captured the state championship for Lincoln-Way West in 2013-14 with an amazing 247.3 average and 2,967 pins.

After two years of narrowly missing the cut to advance to the IHSA State Individual bowling finals, Evergreen Park junior Shaun Quinn finally got his shot at this past weekend’s state meet O’Fallon and finished 15

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Toasted in Orland, roasted in Denver

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

Columnsig924

Page 1 Bronco Schofield

This is what Sandburg High School Athletic Director Mark Krusz has to say about Eagles alum Michael Schofield, who is playing in the Super Bowl for Denver on Sunday:

“I gotta tell you, what a great experience this is for the village of Orland Park and Sandburg to share in. He’s such a humble kid from a great family. We’re all very excited about this.’’

This is what Devner area writer Kyle Montgomery said about Schofield in his Mile High blog:

“To call Denver Broncos right tackle Michael Schofield ‘embattled’ would be an understatement. ‘Maligned’ doesn't quite do it either. The guy is the least popular Bronco in the Peyton Manning era.’’

This is what new Sandburg football coach Scott Peters – who coached Schofield when the kid played on both the offense and defensive lines for the Eagles -- said:

“It’s awesome to know someone who is playing at this level. We’re really excited to see Mike do great things. I would like nothing more for him to come back and talk to our kids with a Super Bowl ring this summer. He’s a great kid and we’re super excited and super pumped for Mike.’’

This is what Denver Post columnist Troy Renk said about Schofield before a playoff game against Pittsburgh:

“Be warned Broncos fans. Michael Schofield might start at right tackle Sunday. If that news requires medication, meditation or amnesia, plan accordingly.

“The idea of Schofield even playing strained credulity after Tyler Polumbus replaced him in the season finale victory over San Diego. Polumbus entered the game in the third quarter at the same time as Peyton Manning. Both had success.

Schofield and Polumbus will see snaps against Pittsburgh. Why would the Broncos risk using the slumping Schofield?”

Schofield is the toast Orland Park but has gotten roasted in Denver.

Welcome to the world of professional sports.

It’s a tough business. And in the past, I had column when I covered the pros and I will admit I could be as rough on some players and teams as Renk and Montgomery were on our local hero. So I am not jumping on them as being the bad guys.

Denver is about a thousand miles away from Orland Park on the map and about a million miles away when it comes to the subject of Michael Schofield.

A lot of people around here see him as the kid who starred for the Eagles and University of Michigan and is now a part of the biggest game in the world. Others admire him for being humble and quiet and a kid who comes back home and talks to Sandburg kids in the weight room and still gives speeches to kids and adults about the evils of heroin and other drugs.

A lot of people around Denver blame him for getting quarterbacks Manning and Brock Osweiler clobbered during games. After a couple of bad games toward the end of the season, Schofield was pulled in the middle of the final regular season game of the year.

It was a low point.

His father, also named Michael and the acting Orland Fire Protection District chief, was in his son’s corner his whole life and he admits it wasn’t easy to read and hear criticism of his flesh and blood.

“The criticism is tough on any parent,” he said. “You know how hard he worked to get where he is at. You saw how he performed against Green Bay, the Bears, the Patriots the first time and the Steelers the first time.  He had some of his best games against the best teams in the country and you have one real bad game and I think the talk on ESPN and the papers affected him. As a young kid, how could it not?’’

Schofield played well against Pittsburgh and well enough against New England in the playoffs to get to Sunday’s game against Carolina and few people are scrutinizing his game right now.

“He came right back,” the elder Schofield said. “The websites are a lot nicer to him now after the last two games. And the team rallied around him.

“A lot of the issues were that he was a new offensive tackle and his best games were with Peyton. Now Brock comes in [after Manning was injured] and it’s a different game. Brock holds the ball longer and Michael had three sub-par games. He played the top defensive players in the country and there was a change in the offense. Now that Payton is back in, he is playing the way he did before.’’

Like umpires in baseball, offensive linemen’s success is determined by people NOT noticing them. You do your job and do it quietly. You screw up and…well…your quarterback gets splattered and you get the blame.

Not to be a cheerleader here, but I’m hoping for a nice, quiet Sunday afternoon for Schofield.

Then, maybe the critics from Denver will get closer to sharing the people of Orland Park’s feelings about him.

Fire GM says past suspension of new player was an "unfortunate decision''

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Page 2 Rodriguez

 

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez vouched for the character of recently signed Joao Meira, who served an eight-month suspension for failing a drug test in Portugal.

One of the first fires the Chicago Fire’s new general manager, Nelson Rodriguez, had to put out on the first day of practice involved one of his newest acquisitions, Joao Meira.

Meira, a top player in Portugal, btings some baggage with him in the form of an eight-month suspension in 2012 for failing a drug test in 2011. The Fire signed the defender/midfielder on Saturday and on Monday Rodriguez vouched for his new player.

“We spoke with the player about it at length,” Rodriguez said. “We spoke to the Portuguese [Football Federation’s] disciplinary committee who rendered the decision. We shared all the information with the league office prior to signing the player to make sure there was an extreme comfort level.

“We believe that the player made an unfortunate decision. It was not a recreational drug and it was not a performance-enhancing drug. He took an over-the-counter supplement that had an ingredient that was on the banned list. It came from the U.S. and on the translation to Portuguese, it was not translated correctly. He even asked his team doctor if he could take that medicine and he was given the OK.’’

The team opened practice Monday at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch in Chicago but Meira is not yet with the team.

“It’s an unfortunate mistake and one that he is repentant about,” Rodriguez said. “But this is something we fully investigated. We’re very comfortable with Joao’s character. He understands the drug testing process of Major League Soccer.’’

On the same day of the Meira signing, the team also re-signed midfielder Razvan Cocis. Both players inked one-year deals with club options for 2017.

 Ch-ch-ch-changes

With a new general manager, head coach and assistant coaches in place and several new players on the roster, there is a whole new feeling in camp.

Midfielder Harry Shipp is the player on the roster with the second-longest tenure of two years behind goalie Sean Johnson (six years).

“It’s going to be my third year but I feel like I am starting over as a rookie,” Shipp said. “We’re starting from scratch with a new coaching staff and everything is pretty new. It’s a fresh start that I needed, personally and everyone who is sticking around needed.’’

The past two seasons, the Fire went 6-10-18 and 8-20-6, costing coach Frank Yallop his job. Enter new coach Veljko Paunovic, a 38-year-old Serbian player who spent a good chunk of his career in Spain.

Shipp noticed right away the new coach is detail oriented.

“Every minute of our first session was planned out,’’ Shipp said. “That’s something that is a change from last year. As players, it helps get your mind set on what you are going to be doing. He is youthful but in a smart way. It’s not just crazy energy running around. It’s applying a focus toward a few key points every day.

“We have our six weeks mapped out on what we want to accomplish and we know what the end goal is six weeks from now.’’

The new coach said players appreciate the detailed approach.

“They are very receptive and they want to learn,’’ he said. “I’m very grateful for that. We are teaching a style of play from the global perspective. They have to be very focused and willing to learn.’’

Fire fan now on team

Cary native Drew Connor is with the team and he has been a fan from way back.

“I was going to games when the Fire played in Soldier Field,” he said. “My family took me when I was real little. I grew up a Fire fan. I even went to a few games when they played a year at North Central College.’’

He said he played scrimmages at Toyota Park a handful of times.

Red Stars make trade

The Chicago Red Stars acquired midfielder Amanda Da Costa and a natural fourth-round pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft from the Washington Spirit on Monday. In exchange for Da Costa and the draft pick, the Spirit will receive a player to be named later from the Red Stars.

Da Costa, 26, spent one season with Washington where she appeared in 17 games, tallying three goals. Before her time in the NWSL, Da Costa spent two years playing overseas with Liverpool Ladies in the FA Women’s Super League, where she helped lead the team to back-to-back championships and claim its first appearance in the UEFA Champions League.

“I am very excited to add Amanda to our group,” said coach Rory Dames. “Besides being a terrific person, Amanda possesses the qualities we were looking for to fill our attacking midfielder role. We are excited to see what she is capable for once she has some time to work with our front line. She also knows what it takes to win a league championship as she showed in England. She is the perfect fit for what we need in this season.”

The Florida State University All-American will join forces with former college teammate Casey Short for the 2016 season.

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Hey mom and pop, learn the concept of commitment

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

Columnsig924

Boys and girls and (especially) moms and dads, let’s talk about the c-word.

No, not cancer or one of the worst expletives out there, I am talking about the word “commitment.’’

If you drive east on 111th, the street will turn into West Monterey and you will pass this big school with a tiny gym – Morgan Park.

For years, the Morgan Park/Simeon basketball game that was supposed to be at MP was moved elsewhere so that more people could watch it. The Mustangs’ gym supposedly holds just 250, but it is like the United Center compared to the even smaller gym they had my daughter’s freshman basketball team play in a few years ago.

But, I digress.

Well this year, the MP parents decided this wasn’t a good arrangement and decided to have their kids boycott the game because it wasn’t held in their bandbox. They held protests and made a big stink about it last week even though this game was scheduled months ahead of time. That’s when they should have been protesting.

So Morgan Park was nearly given a forfeit but the game is on ice and it’s unclear when – or if – it will take place.

Look, I have no problem with the parents protesting the want of a new gym, even though dollars to help the woeful public school education system in the city would be better use of the money.

I have no problem that they are mad at the world because they don’t get to host Simeon at home.

But play the damn game.

Their kids and their coaches made the commitment to the season. This wasn’t some surprise that just popped up. Fans and scouts planned on going to this game. Workers and security people had to be assigned to the event.

And these parents decided to just let the kids boycott because they can’t get their way.

This is the second time this season that interfering parents were sticking their noses in where it didn’t belong.

In the fall, Andrew’s volleyball team was involved in a tournament and the T-Bolts were in a consolation match on Saturday afternoon. It was getting late and it there was a big dance that night and these bonehead parents gathered up their daughters and left, leaving the other team and tournament organizers ticked off.

You get in sports and you make sacrifices.

It’s called commitment.

My kids have had games cancelled because the other team forfeited and it’s frustrating. The kids are ready for a game. They are warming up, ready to play and the other team just leaves the tournament for no good reason other than they are mad they can’t win the championship so they are going home.

On the other hand, my son was playing for a team that was playing in a tournament in Mundelein, which is not close. The team got into a consolation situation where it would play just one game on Sunday.

The coach, who I respect, thought it was a stupid idea to go all the way to Mundelein just to play in one game after the long Saturday we all just had, so he told the tournament organizers well in advance the team wasn’t showing up so the other team wouldn’t be standing around waiting for a game that was never going to happen.

Was it a good idea? Well, we thought so at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night.

Was it the right thing to do?

Not at all. We were guilty of not honoring our commitment.

So, parents, I want you all to do one simple thing. Look at your son or daughter’s schedule before the season starts. If there is a problem, bring it to the coach’s attention then.

Then keep quiet.

Ultimate Spartan

This has been going on for three years, but since I am the rookie at this sports editing game, this is the first I’ve heard of it.

The Oak Lawn softball team is hosting the fourth Ultimate Spartan competition.

A group of senior male athletes will vie for the honor as they will compete in formal wear, beach wear, talent, interviews and audience appreciation. And when it’s over, Steve Harvey will present the wrong guy a trophy.

OK, I made that last part up. It was a cheap joke but in these economic times, that’s all I can afford.

Anyway, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Liam Blake, Vinnie Caprio, Alexander Kenny, Miles O’Brien, Lucas Palacios, Jorge Ramirez, and David Ward will battle it out for the title in the Oak Lawn gym. Tickets are available at the school for $5 in advance and $7 at the door.

Judges will be teachers Lauren Klenn and Kate Mellone plus secretary Jill Malkowski.

For those scoring at home, past winners were Bobby Kametas, Kyle Kuzur, and Peter Ruane.