Gargan hopes to play vs. Rapids

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Gargan hopes to play vs. Rapids

Its not a sure thing that Dan Gargan will be at his usual right back spot for the Fire when the club visits the Colorado Rapids on Sunday. The veteran defender was slowed during the training sessions leading into the match by a sore left toe.

But, perhaps more than any other regular season match in Major League Soccer, Gargan wants to play in this one. The fact that Gargan spent the first four seasons of his MLS career with the Rapids is one thing. But this goes deeper than a player wanting to show off against a team that released him in April of the 2008 season.

In this case theres bragging rights on the line with Jeff Larentowicz, a defensive midfielder for the Rapids. Plenty of former teammates have squared off in MLS over the years, but the Gargan-Larentowicz connection goes back much further than most. They started playing together as students at Clark grade school in Philadelphia, then continued on as teammates at Chestnut Hill Academy, where they helped that school rule the Inter-academic League -- the oldest private school league in the U.S. -- as both juniors and seniors.

"Not just sports but, looking back, we had English class and math class together. We spent countless hours together, said Gargan. "And this wont be the first time weve played against each other. But its still special every time. Itll be a fun game for me.

Actually, they were rivals even in their high school days when they werent playing for Chestnut Hill.

"We werent on the same club team, said Gargan, who played for the Coppa youth team while Larentowicz captained Delco Arsenal, which won U.S. Youth Soccer Assn. national titles in 2002 and 2003.

Youth soccer was strong in the Philadelphia area at that time. Two other MLS veterans, Bobby Convey and Chris Albright played for arch-rival Penn Charter in high school matches, and Convey was Gargans teammate with Coppa in club play. Last week Gargan squared off with Albright when the Fire defeated the Philadelphia Union 1-0 for its first victory of the season.

After high school graduation in 2001 Gargan played at Georgetown while Larentowicz performed for Brown. Though Chestnut Hills strong program produced lots of Division I soccer players, only Gargan and Larentowicz are still playing. Gargan is 29, Larentowicz 28.

Gargan was drafted 43rd overall by the Rapids in 2005, and he played in 49 matches for them from 2005-2007. They released him early in the 2008 season, and he signed with Chivas USA two weeks later but personal problems led to him retiring three weeks later without playing a game.

He restarted his career in 2009, playing for the Puerto Rico Islanders of the United Soccer League. Toronto FC brought him back into MLS in 2010, and he started 37 times for that club before being traded to the Fire for defender Dasan Robinson on July 28 of last year. Gargan was a key late-season acquisition, starting nine times in a strong stretch run that saw the Fire barely miss the playoffs.

Larentowiczs career is similar. He was the 45th pick in the 2005 MLS supplemental draft by the New England Revolution and stayed with the Revs through the 2009 season. They sent him to the Rapids in a five-player trade prior to the 2010 season. Hell return to the Rapids lineup Sunday after serving a one-game suspension for drawing two yellow cards in the previous match.

Gargan and Larentowicz trained together briefly after Larentowicz was traded to the Rapids, and Larentowicz stood up in Gargans wedding in January. Both their families still live in the Philadelphia area.

Both also know about the altitude in Denver that has been known to bother visiting teams.

"In the time I was there I was in the best shape of my life, said Gargan. "When Id come out for practices I felt I could run for days. Once you hit altitude you feel it. Its crazy how quickly you get dehydrated. Playing in it (on a daily basis) is definitely a benefit, and the teams in Colorado havent taken as much advantage of it as they should.

The Fire hopes the Rapids wont take advantage of it in this the third game of the season. Its a key one, based on what transpired last season. As was the case in 2011, the Fire is off to 1-0-1 start. Last years Game 3 started a tailspin in which the Fire didnt win again for three months. The club doesnt want that to happen again.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."