Friedrich makes Fire debut in friendly vs. Louisville

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Friedrich makes Fire debut in friendly vs. Louisville

Arne Friedrich played in 82 matches for Germanys national team. Despite his star-studded career in Europe, his debut with the Fire on Saturday came against a bunch of college kids.

Not surprisingly, Friedrichs superior skill was clearly evident as he lasted 88 minutes in a 1-0 victory over the University of Louisville, a squad that included Fire first-round draft pick Austin Berry on its roster last season. On Saturday Berry played beside Friedrich in the middle of the Fires back line.

Though Fire coach Frank Klopas used 21 players, this match -- designed to keep the team fit during a bye week -- was all about Friedrich. He didnt play in the Fires first three Major League Soccer matches because his fitness wasnt up to snuff. Hes expected to be ready for Sundays home game against the Houston Dynamo, however.

"This is my target," said Friedrich. "(Saturday) was my first game after six months. Im about 70 percent, but to be 100 percent I need some games."

Not only did Friedrich, 32, play his first game for the Fire, it was also his first game of any kind in the United States.

"I played against the United States when I was with our national team," he said. "And I saw only two MLS games because in Germany it was hard to get it (on television)."

Friedrich feels he needs to improve his fitness and get to know his teammates better on the field, but otherwise his adjustment to a new city hasnt been difficult.

"Its been no problem. From the first day I liked this city and the people very much," he said. "And I got lucky with the weather.

His first match was played in beautiful conditions on the Toyota Park practice field, and that encouraged about 200 fans to turn out. A group of Section 8 supporters was particularly vocal while standing on a hill behind the south goal. Friedrich was almost as vocal on the field.

"The most important thing is for us to know each other," said Friedrich. "Sometimes weve got to talk more on the pitch, but this takes time. I want to help this team with my experience. The target is to get to the playoffs, and when we get there anything can happen."

Klopas called Friedrichs performance "solid" and said hed be ready for the Houston match.

"We pushed him as much as we could in this game," said Klopas. "It was an easy game for him. Its important for someone to be vocal like that, with the experience to guide you."

Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko and Dan Gargan didnt play against the collegians, and only Marco Pappa played the full 90 minutes. He scored the lone goal with an 18-yard blast off his left foot in the 12th minute.

Gargan, nursing a left toe injury, jogged along the sidelines before the match. Jalil Anibaba, who started beside Gibbs as a central defender in the first three matches, moved to Gargans spot on the right side but Klopas would give no indication what lineup hell use against the Dynamo.

Sean Johnson figures to return in goal after missing preseason and the first three MLS matches while spending time training with Everton of the English Premier League and the U.S. under-23 team in its bid to qualify for the Olympics. Klopas held him out of the last MLS match because he hadnt seen much game action lately, and the last of those appearances didnt go too well. Johnson came on as a reserve against El Salvador in the last match of Olympic qualifying and allowed a tying goal in stoppage time. The tie advanced El Salvador and eliminated the U.S. in the tournament.

Klopas said Johnson has shaken off that negative experience, but feels last years starting netminder isnt game-sharp yet. He played the first half and Paolo Tornaghi the second against Louisville. Johnson played all 90 minutes for the Fire reserves in a 2-1 loss at Colorado on Monday and will likely play in the reserves next match, on Tuesday at Sporting Kansas City, before Klopas decides on Sundays starter.

"His attitudes been very good in training," said Klopas, indicating that Johnson has shaken off the letdown vs. El Salvador.

"You just have to move on with your career," said Klopas. "You cant hold on and let that bother you. Whether youre a goalkeeper or not, you learn through difficult moments. Sean has learned from that."

For at least one Badger, loss to Penn State hurts more than 59-0 blowout vs. Buckeyes

For at least one Badger, loss to Penn State hurts more than 59-0 blowout vs. Buckeyes

INDIANAPOLIS — Wisconsin's last two trips to Indy have not gone well.

Back in 2014, the Badgers were favored heading into their Big Ten Championship Game showdown with Ohio State only to get absolutely destroyed, 59-0.

Saturday night, ranked one spot ahead of opposing Penn State, Wisconsin blew a three-touchdown lead and lost the Big Ten title to the Nittany Lions, 38-31.

It's hard to imagine anything being worse than a 59-0 blowout, but for at least one Badger in the immediate aftermath of this latest loss, this time around hurts more.

"I think it hurt me a little bit more because this is it for me," Wisconsin defensive back Sojourn Shelton said after the game Saturday night. "And I know a lot of guys in that locker room, it’s what we’ve been through. We came back after the bowl game (at the end of last season), we accepted the task of everything that we did, the schedule and everything. This one hurt."

They say it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, though the opposite might be true for leads in a football game. Perhaps it is better to never have led at all than to have a three-touchdown advantage cleared away by an unstoppable juggernaut of an offense that was Penn State on Saturday night.

It was the Badgers who were in complete control early. Corey Clement had a 67-yard touchdown run, the defense was forcing turnovers and scored a touchdown, and it looked like Wisconsin would avenge its 59-0 defeat the last time it was here in similar blowout fashion. But then the Lions turned it on, quarterback Trace McSorley and his bevy of pass-catchers made one highlight-reel play after another and cashed in on four straight touchdown drives.

The Wisconsin lead was gone, and the Badgers looked shell-shocked.

"This one’s tough. Especially just the way that we were rolling in the first half," Shelton said. "It’s tough right now. I can’t go back or anything. Time is going to keep moving. Let it hurt, just move on. It’s the only thing you can do."

Much like Penn State, Wisconsin wasn't supposed to make it this far. The Badgers had a seemingly impossible schedule when the season started, opening against LSU and staring down a stretch of games against Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska to open conference play. But Wisconsin survived it, losing just twice to two top-five teams in Ohio State and Michigan and only by a combined 14 points. The Badgers were hands down one of the best defenses in the country, and had they won Saturday night, we might be talking about them as a potential College Football Playoff team.

Instead, it's all what could've been, just like in 2014.

"I think it just hurt so much because I know the work we’ve put in behind the closed doors, the weight room, all the early morning workouts. For us to come up short like this, that’s where it really stings," Shelton said. "I’m not going to say 'bump the Playoff,' but I just think we worked too hard to come up short.

"For the group behind us, let it be a lesson. They’ll be ready."

An awful lot happened after losing to Ohio State two years ago. Head coach Gary Andersen left for Oregon State, athletics director Barry Alvarez coached the team to a big win over Auburn in the Outback Bowl, and Paul Chryst returned as the team's new head coach.

The questions always come after a loss like this about "getting up" for the bowl game. Shelton doesn't think that will be a problem. Why? Because these Badgers have done it before.

"We’ve been here before. Same stadium, worse loss. We’ll bounce back."

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

The Blackhawks will be without their No. 1 goaltender for a few weeks, so the obvious backup call-up came on Sunday morning.

At the same time, the Blackhawks are going to give one of their forwards a little work in the minors.

The Blackhawks recalled goaltender Lars Johansson from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday morning. They also assigned forward Nick Schmaltz to the IceHogs.

Johansson has a 6-7-1 mark with 2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 16 games. This comes one day after Corey Crawford had an appendectomy in Philadelphia prior to the Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss there. Crawford, according to the team, is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Schmaltz has a goal and three assists in 26 games with the Blackhawks this season. Schmaltz is one of several forwards who got a top-line opportunity this season and, much like most of the others, couldn’t stick there. He has struggled to find a consistent game.

The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. Scott Darling is expected to get the start.