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A look back at Fire/NYC and ahead to Fire/Montreal

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

 

 

PAGE 2 FIRE GRIMACE

Photo of FS1 telecast

Rodrigo Ramos is attended to by medical personnel after crashing with New York City’s Ronald Matarrita in the 56th minute of Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Yankee Stadium.

 

 

 

After Sunday night’s 0-0 draw with the New York City Football Club at Yankee Stadium the glass is either half full or half empty for the Chicago Fire.

On one hand, the Fire continued its winless streak on the road to 27 games and hasn’t grabbed three points away from Toyota Park since beating New England July 12, 2014.

On the other hand, the defense and goalie Matt Lampson are closing in on team history as they have shut out opponents for 356 minutes – 36 minutes short of the Fire’s all-time mark, which it set in 2009.

Lampson, who replaced the longest tenured Fire player, Sean Johnson, was pretty busy making a career-high eight saves and recording his third straight shutout. In his Fire debut on March 6, NYC scored four goals against him including three in the first half in a game in Bridgeview.

Since that game, he has allowed just one goal in four matches and is one of the elite goalies in Major League Soccer as he is tied for first in the league in shutouts (three) and third in the league in saves (26).

"I think Matt did a great job, he had fantastic saves,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We have to recognize all the teamwork that happens before that in order for him to make the saves. He did a great job when he had to stop something and the team did a great job by exhausting the opponent ahead of time.’’

The Fire played its third straight game without star midfielder David Accam who has a left knee injury. It appeared the Fire could survive another week with Accam on the shelf when the team danced and celebrated in the 60th minute after rookie Jonathan Campbell’s header went past NYC goalie Josh Saunders. But it was waved off when Johan Kappelhof was ruled offside while Gilberto’s header was heading toward Campbell.

Arguing ensued by the Fire players but the goal stayed off the board and Paunovic had no comment after the game about it.

 "Our club policy is to not talk about the referee's calls," he said.

When Accam gets back, and Fire are hoping that will come this weekend, it should put a little more sizzle into the offense.

For now, the Fire is savoring the improvement from the 4-3 loss to NYC.

"Well, I think for everybody, it was a learning experience,” Lampson said. “It sucks to learn from a loss and a bad loss, but it was obviously a learning experience and everyone has jelled. And we are getting better and better with each game, particularly with possession, and I'm happy with the progress we're making.

“It was an embarrassing game the first game and we wanted payback for these guys. Unfortunately we couldn't a goal but I'm really proud of the way these guys fought today and we deserved a point." 

 

 

MONTREAL IMPACT AT CHICAGO FIRE

WHEN: 4 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

FIRE RECORD: 1-1-3

IMPACT RECORD: 3-2-0

LAST TIME: Andres’ Romero’s goal in the 76th minute gave the host Impact a 2-1 victory on Sept. 23. David Accam scored the Fire’s lone goal in a game that featured one red card and eighth yellows.

FIRE NOTES

Harry Shipp grew up a Chicago Fire fan while living in Lake Forest.

He played for the team for two seasons in 2014 and 2015.

For the first time in his career, he will be rooting against a Fire victory and will be in a position to do something about it.

The Fire traded the popular Shipp to Montreal in February and he will play his first game against his former team at 4 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Park.

Some pro athletes treat their sport as a business but Shipp had a love for playing with the team he grew up rooting for.

“When I was told out of the blue that I would no longer be a member of the Fire, I immediately broke down and started crying,” Shipp said in an open letter to Chicago shortly after the trade.  “It was totally shocking and overwhelming. This club and this city have meant everything to me. Not just for the past two years, but since I started following the Fire over 15 years ago.’’

As a member of the Impact, he opened the season with two assists in its first two games.

Shipp, 24, had 10 goals and 14 assists in 66 games for the  Fire during his two years with the club. He also made eight appearances for the Fire during Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play, helping the team reach the semifinals both years. Shipp initially signed with Chicago as a Homegrown Player on Jan. 9, 2014.

(subhead) The four freshmen

Rookie Alex Morrell made his professional debut when he entered Sunday’s 0-0 match in the 84th minute. Morrell is the fourth Fire rookie to appear in a MLS match this season, joining Brandon Vincent, Jonathan Campbell and Joey Calistri.

 

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: T-Bolts to bring geezer grapplers to town

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Columnsig924

Food for thought for those who aren’t very hungry:

The Windy City Thunderbolts are bringing some big-name wrestlers to perform after some of their Thursday night game.

Big names from years ago.

But that’s OK.

The kids who love Roman Reigns and AJ Styles may not appreciate the geezers coming to Crestwood but some of us experienced fans (i.e. older) might get a kick out of seeing Matt Hardy on June 2, Billy Gunn on June 23, Abyss on July 7, Scotty 2 Hotty on Aug. 4 and Chavo Guerrero on Sept. 1 courtesy of Blitz Pro Wrestling.

Out of this group, Gunn is my favorite because he made me laugh the most. He is on the other side of 50 now.  

His real name is Monty Kip Sopp and has gone under at least 16 different ring names including Cute Kip, Kip Montana and Rockabilly.

He hit his peak in the WWE as Billy Gunn. He and the Road Dogg as the New Age Outlaws, who were a part of Degeneration X. He was known as “Badass” Billy Gunn and later, Mr. Ass. The Outlaws had a suggestive and profane line that led into the rest of DX doing the famous “crotch chop” which made its way into other sports such as football, baseball and pro bowling. Late in 2015, Arizona QB Carson Palmer got in hot water for chopping Seattle fans.

Mature stuff? Naah. But funny? You bet.

So, if you kids aren’t down with having these old-timey wrestlers doing their thing in the ring after T-Bolt games, I got two words for ya…

…ask your father what they are.

 Other brothers doing well

On our front page we have a story on the McCormick brothers from Orland Park who are making names for themselves on the St. Laurence baseball team.

Another pair of brothers from Orland helped the Vikings pile up victories and are both at Division I colleges.

Kyle Wood is a senior at Purdue and through 24 games has driven in 24 runs including 14 in a five-game span against Ball State, Louisville and three games against Nebraska in late March. He has also clubbed nine homers. He turns 23 on Sunday.

His younger brother Brad was hitting .277 as a sophomore for Northern Illinois University in the Huskies first 29 games with eight RBI. He also made two appearances on the mound and threw two scoreless innings.

 By the way, someone else got injured…

 The season-ending injury to Kyle Schwarber rocked Cubs Nation and made it to the front page of the Chicago Tribune even though the guy only has 236 lifetime at-bats and is a lifetime .242 hitter.

But man, can he hit powerful home runs.

Some feel sorry for the kid, but there was also an injury announced last week that is even more of a shame.

Mikey Dudek, a receiver for the University of Illinois who set records as a freshman, will miss his second straight season with a tear to his right ACL. It was the same injury that wiped out his 2015 season. Dudek caught 76 passes for 1,038 yards his first year and looked like he was on his way to a promising college career. The receiver from Neuqua Valley’s career is on hold again.

For the Cubs and Schwarber, I think the team is deep enough to whether this injury and Schwarber will still be paid while he is rehabbing.

But a college kid with two ACL surgeries…that’s going to be tough to recover from.

It just goes to show that around the University of Illinois athletic program, lately no news has been good news.

Can Donald trump this?

The last-place guy in the Unholy Trinity known as the last three Republican presidential candidates is Ohio Governor John Kasich.

He proved last week to be a true man of the people when he said he would be in favor of making the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday.

“There is no productivity whatsoever,” Kasich told the Dan Patrick Show. “I’m going to take that under consideration. Maybe I can get that done in the first 100 days.”

I watched the video a couple of times and can’t tell if he was yanking Patrick’s chain or was serious.

In this campaign, who knows what’s serious anymore?

Chicago Fire/Philly review and a look ahead to NYC FC

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 2 FiRE 9 Philly 12 snow

Photo by Jeff Vorva

The Fire’s Gilberto, right, tries to get around Philadelphia’s Keegan Rosenberry during one of several snowy moments in Saturday’s 1-0 Fire victory.

 

To be sure, Philadelphia’s Warren Creavalle getting thrown out of the game in the second minute of the second half and the Chicago’s Fire Kennedy Igboananike’s goal four minutes later were the keys to the Fire’s 1-0 victory over the Union.

But another factor that the Fire had to face was the sometimes snowy, sometimes sunny and always windy conditions at Toyota Park in Bridgeview on Saturday afternoon. The weather was worse in the first half and the Fire had to also survive a blizzard of shots (12, including a pair of C.J. Sapong attempts that hit the crossbar and post) and still came away with a 0-0 draw.

That was the third element of the game that brought a pro soccer victory to the south suburbs. If the Fire defense didn’t keep the Union off the board, it would have likely been another afternoon without collecting three points.

Goalie Matt Lampson, who racked up his second straight shutout, said it wasn’t easy for him or the defense as the Fire improved to 1-1-2 and earned its first win in the Veljko Paunovic era in front of an announced crowd of 12,073.

“It was probably the harshest conditions I’ve ever played in,” Lampson said. “It was very difficult for both teams so it’s a testament to our guys came out with three points in conditions like that. I’m incredibly proud of our team. Every single guy played his heart out. I think we deserved three points today.

“That first half, honestly, was absolutely brutal. We needed to get out of that half without conceding and that’s exactly what we did. In soccer, luck always has something to do with it. Whether it hits the post or not doesn’t matter. We came out with the result that we wanted. We were resilient. We suffered through and got out of it the way we wanted to.’’

Philadelphia game into the game with a 2-1-0 mark and tied for first with Montreal in the Eastern Division of Major League Soccer.

“This win means a lot for me and everyone in the lockerroom,” Paunovic said. “We will have more confidence now and that’s very, very important. We beat a very good team. This win helps us to grow.’’

The team played its second straight game without leading scorer David Accam and after managing just three shots in the first half, the Fire took advantage of the 11-on-10 situation that Creavalle’s red card provided and had seven second-half shots including Igboananike’s second goal of the season (Michael Harrington assisted) to tie Accam for the team lead.

“To play in this weather was difficult – you never knew what you were going to get,” Igboananike said. “You have to be mentally strong to play through that and we did that and picked up a win.’’

CHICAGO FIRE AT NEW YORK CITY FC

WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Yankee Stadium, New York

FIRE RECORD: 1-1-2

NYC RECORD: 1-1-2

LAST TIME: NYC opened the 2016 season with a 4-3 victory over the Fire on March 6 at Toyota Park. Both teams combined for 37 shots. Mix Diskerud scored what turned out to be the winning goal in the second half for NYC.

 

Fire looks to regain its honor

 

The Chicago Fire won its first game since Oct. 5 when it beat Philadelphia, 1-0, on Monday – a streak of five games.

The next challenge is to win on the road.

The Fire visits the New York City Football Club Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Chicago has not won a road game since topping New England, 1-0, on July 12, 2014 -- a streak of 26 games.

The Fire has gone 0-18-8 in that span.

The Fire has one more reason to want to win. Its 4-3 loss to NYC to open the season at Toyota Park is still stinging.

“We had our honor hurt,” first-year coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We feel like we have some payback. There is something special about this game.’’

The coach said earlier this week midfielder David Accam is in the “final phase of recovery” from an injured left knee but is not sure if he will be able to play against New York. Accam missed the past two games.

 

Coming soon?

Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez said two new international players will be heading to the team in May during the team’s Saturday morning Chicago Fire Weekly radio show. He wouldn’t give out names but said one player is a midfielder.

"We won’t make that announcement for another week-to-10 days and that’s at the request of the team from whom the player is coming, which is involved in some important matches. It’s a central midfielder who we believe will complement our existing group and give us a little bit more size in there,” Rodriguez said.

The Fire Confidential website speculates the players will be Senegalese midfielder Khaly Thian (who plays for MTK Budapest) and Dutch striker Michael De Leeuw (who is playing for FC Groningen).

Showing some style

The Fire Soccer Club hosts the fourth annual Soccer & Style fashion show atROOF on theWit (201 North State Street, 27th Floor,) from 6 to 8 p.m. May 5.

Fire players will walk the runway in this season's hottest looks provided by Banana Republic. Tickets start at $50 and includes entry into the event and two drink tickets. VIP ticketsare$75 and include event entry, three drink tickets and a commemorative gift.

All proceeds from the event benefit the Chicago Fire Foundation. In 2015, the fashion show raised over $11,000.
 

The models scheduled to appear are Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic, goalkeeper Patrick McLain, defenders Jonathan Campbell, Eric Gehrig, Michael Harrington, Joao Meira and Brandon Vincent, and midfielders David Accam, Arturo Alvarez, Joey Calistri, Razvan Cocis, John Goossens, Matt Polster and Michael Stephens.

For tickets, visit Eventbrite.com

 

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Wait 'til next year one more year, Cubs fans

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Columnsig924

The pitching staff is great.

The lineup is darn near perfect.

The manager is one of the best in the business.

So why won’t the Cubs win the World Series this year?

I can’t give a good solid reason except my gut says this is not the year.

And I have a big gut.

Look, I think the Cubs are good enough to win 100 games this year, even in a division that has two strong teams in St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

I like the fact that so many young stars got a taste of the postseason last year and shouldn’t be awed by the experience this year.

On paper, this team is dynamite.

But on paper, the 2004 Cubs were built for the World Series, too, and that didn’t happen.

On paper, the Washington Nationals were supposed to mash all of the other baseball teams into the ground. That didn’t happen.

For some reason, I think the Cubs need one more year to win that ultimate prize. To steal a gimmick from the late Ernie Banks, the Cubs will be mean in 2017.

I think they will win the division and get knocked out by, gasp, Dusty Baker and the aforementioned Nationals. Like him or hate him, Baker has been pretty good lately on his first year on the job.

So, my predictions are:

NL Central champ: Cubs

NL East champ: Washington

NL West champ: San Francisco

Wild card teams: Pittsburgh and the New York Mets.

NL champ: Washington

AL Central champ: Kansas City

AL East champ: Toronto

AL West champ: Texas

Wild card teams: Boston, Tampa

AL champ: Toronto

World Series champ: Toronto

(subhead) What about the Sox?

I like, but don’t love the Sox and I think they will be in the mix with Cleveland and Detroit for second place but probably won’t qualify as a wild card team.

Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon combined for 38 wins last year and if all three bump those totals up to 15-plus each, the team should be OK.

A lot of people love the signing of Todd Frazier and I am somewhat excited about it but I am always a little skittish when a lifetime National Leaguer comes to the Sox.

The Sox spent a lot of money during the offseason between 2014 and 2015 and the team finished with 76 wins. They tried to spend a little more wisely this past offseason and we will see where that will get them. I’m guessing 89 wins but no playoffs.

Catledge, Parker, Shimko earn Player of the Year honors

  • Written by Anthony Nasella

 

The Reporter/Regional picked co-Players of the Year in boys basketball and one in girls. Here are the tremendous three for 2015-16:

PAGE 1 J CAT 

Photos by Jeff Vorva

JAYLAN CATLEDGE, RICHARDS

As far as impact players go for boys’ basketball teams in the area, some view Richards junior forward Jaylan Catledge as a can’t-miss talent.

And to hear Bulldogs’ head coach Jevon Mamon tell it, as Catledge goes, the team goes.

That was evident for the second-year varsity player, who averaged 20.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest this season, while his improving his shooting percentages from a year ago in leading Richards to success.

It’s those accomplishments and general impact that led to Catledge being named the Reporter/Regional co-Boys Basketball Player of the Year. He was the first sophomore to win Player of the Year last year and his numbers have gotten bigger this season.

“The guys all rally behind Jaylan,” Mamon said. “He has the ability to change games. He’s done a tremendous job and is an exceptional player who continues to open eyes.

“In the last off season, we gave him a goal to improve his shooting, and he shot 35 percent from 3-point land and 50 percent in conference. That was something that he worked on over the course of the summer, and it paid off this season.”

In addition to leading the Bulldogs in scoring and rebounding while improving his shooting from behind the arc, Catledge displayed versatility and value to his teammates by adding 1.7 assists, 1.6 steals, and 1.5 blocks per contest to help his team win the South Suburban Red Conference. He was named the conference’s MVP.

“He probably had about five double-doubles,” Mamon said. “He’s just so tough to guard. He can score multiple ways off the dribble – on the glass while also making his opponents also respect his jump shot.”

Catledge said he was aware of the challenge to step up and be an impact player, and he expressed some satisfaction with his play this season. But he also knows he has his work cut out for a big senior campaign.

“I knew I had to step up my game and carry our team from time to time, and I also knew I had to make better decisions,” Catledge said. “I think I could have played a little bit better. I still need to work at my jump shots off the dribble.’’

Catledge will get plenty of chance to sharpen that part of his game when he plays for the Example Sports AAU team in Bourbonnais for a second season.

“I’m looking forward to some summer ball,” he said. “I’m excited about the challenges of next season.”

Mamom is said he’s looking forward to seeing Catledge take his game to another level next season.

“Jaylan is a good player, but he’s far from maxing out his potential,” he said. “When he plays to his potential, he’s definitely one of the better players in the area. Work is far from over.

“There’s multiple things he can do offensively and defensively. He’s quiet, which can be challenging. But he’s taking steps to lead vocally. He gets it done pretty much on a nightly basis for us.”

 

PAGE 1 MALIK 3 31

 PAGE 1 REAL MALIK

MALIK PARKER, CHICAGO CHRISTIAN

When Chicago Christian boys basketball coach Kevin Pittman handed the point guard responsibilities to Marist transfer Malik Parker at the beginning of the season, he was hopeful that the newcomer could blend in and lead the team to success.

Parker was able to accomplish that as he was a key in helping the Knights become the only area team in the past three years to win a regional title when they beat the hosts to claim the Class 2A Illiana Christian Regional. Under his watch, the team also won the Metro Suburban Conference East title and won 22 games on the season. The junior was named the Reporter/Regional co-Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

The first hurdle was to win over his teammates. Sometimes new players are not welcomed with open arms by veteran members of the team.

But Parker’s experience on Marist’s varsity last year and commitment to the game enabled him to lead a team that featured established three-year varsity players such as Anajuwon Spencer, Daylon Washington and Trevor Wolterink.

“For Malik to lead the way he was able to with the strong senior leadership we had, and to gain their trust, speaks volumes,” Pittman said. “He’s already talking about what he’s planning to do over the summer: A full AAU schedule and team camps. That work will make him an even better player next year

 “As the year progressed, he started to also relax in the offense that we ran. He found people in spots we wanted him to find them in. He’s a well-rounded player. To do all that as junior is saying something about the talent level that this kid possesses.”

For the season, Parker averaged a team-high 13.5 points per game, 2.5 assists, two rebounds, and two steals per game. He canned 45 three-pointer baskets on 108 attempts for a solid percentage of 41.7 percent. He scored 24 points in the team’s 68-65 sectional semifinal loss to Reed-Custer. He was also named his conference’s Player of the Year.

Proudly called a gym rat by Pittman, Parker’s versatility has allowed him to transcend his point guard functions and help in several different ways, according to his coach.

“Malik really grew into the point-guard position as the season went on, but he’s a definite scorer,” Pittman said. “He’s more of a hybrid – a one-guard and two-guard mixed into one body. He just loves to play and is always in the gym the moment it’s opened."

Parker defers his accomplishments to the hard work and talent that was put in by all of his teammates.

“The success I achieved would have been impossible without my teammates and coach,” Parker said. “They all pushed me on and off the court to be the best player I could be. There was a little pressure at the beginning of the season, but I knew we had a lot of talent and we could have a great season.

“The honors and accomplishments have all been very humbling. It was a fun season.”

 

 PAGE 1KARA

KARA SHIMKO, QUEEN OF PEACE

 

In the spring and summer, basketball was not Kara Shimko’s top priority.

Beating a cancer scare was.

The junior-to-be at Queen of Peace received the frightening news that she needed a phyllodes tumor that measured at 4.5 centimeters removed from her left breast. She had the surgery performed in June and was relieved that it benign.

When the procedure was over, the first thing she asked was “When can I play basketball again?”

She was back on the court soon enough and ready to help Queen of Peace finish 19-12 and to win a Class 3A regional title.

She raised her scoring average from 13 as a sophomore to a team-high 17 points per game, led the team in 3-point baskets (66) and free-throw shooting (91 percent) and has been named the Reporter/Regional Girls Basketball Player of the Year. Since the award was given out in 1994, she is the first Queen of Peace athlete to win it.

For Shimko, this was a season that was more than about basketball. When word of her story came out in December, it was shared by a ton of websites from lookfordiagnosis.com to glocalheadlines.uk.

Her father, Queen of Peace coach George Shimko, said he is just as proud of her off the court as he is on the court.

 “I received a text regarding Kara that said as much as Kara is as a great player, what is great about her is how much of leader she is to her teammates,” the coach said. “That is such nice recognition to have because we tell the players all the time that if you want to be recognized as a good player you have to genuinely want you teammates to do well.

“And that’s Kara – every day at practice and in school. The way she carries herself is all about wanting everybody else to do well. That’s her mantra and how she approaches life. That’s the thing I’m the most proud about Kara. Work hard on individual skills and team skills, but her concern about teammates speaks a lot about the kind of individual she is.”

Kara said her approach to hers and team’s success was basic.

“We just wanted to go out and have fun this season, and that’s exactly what we did, she said. “We as a team were able to turn things around from when we lost all those games two seasons ago to be able to win while still having fun.

“It was great seeing my teammates, especially, having fun. The way we did it was so fun, and I was most happy when we were all doing well together.”

The Pride has gone from two wins two seasons ago to 19 this year and a bigger season could be in store next year and beyond. The team had no seniors on the roster and freshman Jovannna Martinucci became a force in the lineup.

With one more season with Shimko and her scoring and leadership abilities, it could be huge year in Burbank.