Pappa's hat trick propels Fire to victory

Pappa's hat trick propels Fire to victory

Wednesday, Sept 28, 2011Posted: 11:05 p.m.

Associated Press

Box Score

SANDY, UTAH (AP) Marco Pappa scored three goals to lift the Chicago Fire to a rare road victory with a 3-0 defeat of Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night.

A record setting crowd of 20,762 at Rio Tinto Stadium watched as Pappa brought Chicago (7-8-15) only its second road win of the season. The loss spoiled the return of midfielder Javier Morales, who entered the match as a sub in the 60th minute. It was the first action for Morales since suffering a gruesome ankle injury in May.

Things turned sour for Salt Lake (15-9-6) in a matter of a couple minutes early in the first half.

Chicago seized a quick 1-0 lead on a goal from Pappa in the 9th minute. The Fire midfielder volleyed a solid left-footer over the top of the RSL defense and zipped the ball past the shoulder of Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.

RSL barely had a chance to regroup from the early goal when team captain Kyle Beckerman was shown a red card and ejected from the match in the 11th minute. Beckerman earned the ejection after a hard foul on Daniel Paladini and will also sit out his team's next match against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.

Salt Lake attacked furiously through the remainder of the first half, trying to erase the one-goal advantage. It nearly happened when Alvaro Saborio slipped behind Chicago's backline in the 28th minute and latched onto a through ball fed to him from Andy Williams. Saborio had an open shot, but he sent the ball wide of the left post to keep RSL scoreless.

No other potential goal materialized for Salt Lake before halftime. RSL was held without a shot on goal during the first half.

Pappa struck again in the 36th minute to make it 2-0 for the Fire. Pavel Pardo flicked it ahead to him on the right side of the penalty area and Pappa curled a shot inside the left post.

He finally completed his hat trick in the 75th minute when he put an unassisted goal inside the left post to give the Fire a 3-0 advantage.

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson looked around the Blackhawks’ room at where fellow defensemen stalls would probably be as the season approached.

“You have Brian (Campbell) back, (Michal) Kempny here, obviously and all the other guys,” Gustafsson said. “It’s going to be tough, but I like it.”

The Blackhawks’ biggest Achilles heel last season was defense, especially after Trevor Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That opened the door for young players, including Gustafsson, to get bigger opportunities. This year the defense should be stronger with Campbell’s return. So for guys like Gustafsson, cracking this lineup just got that much tougher.

During the summer, assistant coach Mike Kitchen talked potential pairings as Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Campbell-Brent Seabrook, Kempny-Trevor van Riemsdyk. As of now, the team is expecting Keith to be ready for the season opener. Keith has been participating in a practice a day but whether or not he plays in any preseason games is uncertain right now.

If it starts out that way, Gustafsson would be on the outside looking in.

But first things first: Gustafsson is focused on building off experience gained last season — he played 41 games, recording 14 assists — and cleaning up a few errors committed in training camp practices.

“You know all the guys on the team, you know how they want to play over here and in the NHL. Just go out and show them. I didn’t do that [Saturday] but this was the first game,” Gustafsson said. “I felt good with the puck but I have to play more defense in my own zone. Just a couple of small things I have to be better.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Nothing comes easy when you’re trying to make an NHL roster but it got that much tougher for a young defenseman with the Blackhawks this season. Hey, that’s the way it is, and players know it.

“Of course it’ll be tougher,” Gustafsson said. “It won’t be easy to take a spot. You just have to go out there, do your best and see what happens.”

BRIEFLY

- Patrick Kane could play in the Blackhawks’ game against St. Louis on Saturday. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said, “don’t be surprised to see 88 politicking to get in the lineup. Pretty good chance we’ll see him on Saturday."

- The Blackhawks were off on Thursday. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger and Hjalmarsson were expected to join the team at Friday’s practice

- Alexandre Fortin, who signed a three-year contract on Sunday, played 12 1/2 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That included about two minutes of power-play time. Dineen wouldn’t mind seeing Fortin in another game. “He showed himself well all camp and I think [Wednesday] we saw some good spurts out there, and we’ll find that consistency in a young player as we move forward.”

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah appreciative of time with Bulls despite 'low blow'

Joakim Noah may be wearing a different uniform, but he's still wearing the same heart on his sleeve.

That much was made clear in his comments made to the New York media on Wednesday.

Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million deal with the Knicks after eight seasons with the Bulls, was asked about comments Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf questioning Noah's future as a main contributor on a team.

Reinsdorf told the Chicago Tribune earlier this month that Noah was "not a frontline player," referencing the team's decision not to bring him back in free agency.

Noah responded to those comments in classy fashion - while also getting his true thoughts across:

“He’s entitled to his opinion,’’ Noah said. “I feel I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me that’s all that matters. I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter of my career.”

No one would ever question Noah's heart, but it's undeniable that his body is beginning to show wear, and his performance has reflected it.

Noah played in just 29 games last season before a season-ending shoulder injury, averaging career-lows in points (4.3), field goal percentage (38.3%), free throw percentage (48.9%) and steals (0.6). That came on the heels of a 2015 season in which he missed 15 games and averaged 7.2 points, the lowest since his second season in the league.

But the Knicks are hoping a rejuvenated Noah, playing in his hometown, will find some magic in his 31-year-old body and be able to get the Knicks back to the playoffs.

Noah, Derrick Rose and the Knicks will square off against the Bulls at the United Center on Nov. 4.