Fire host Galaxy Saturday at 3:30 on CSN

Fire host Galaxy Saturday at 3:30 on CSN

Friday, Sept. 3, 2010
3:30 PM

By Justin O'Neil

The Fire will host the Western Conference leading Galaxy at 3:00 PM on Saturday at Toyota Park at on Comcast SportsNet. The Fire find themselves five points short of the last playoff spot, currently held by the San Jose Earthquake. Chicago has played fewer games than anyone else in the MLS with eleven regular season games remaining.

Guns of August. The arrivals of designated players Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo seemed to spark the Fire, as they earned seven points from three games to begin August. Ljungbergs debut resulted in a big 3-2 win on the road over the league-leading Galaxy, and the team earned a point in a 0-0 draw against the playoff bound New York Red Bulls. An 85th minute goal from Calen Carr gave them a dramatic 2-1 come from behind win over fellow playoff contender New England Revolution 2-1. Since then, the team has suffered a pair of heartbreaking road losses, with last minute goals giving the Houston Dynamo a 4-3 win and the Seattle Sounders a 2-1 victory.

Consistently inconsistent. With a new coach and shuffling roster, it shouldnt surprise many people that the team struggled at the beginning of the season. The month of August was a dramatic improvement for the team, as they easily could have gone undefeated if not for the late concessions in Houston and Seattle. The team was embarrassed on June 29th by being eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup by non-MLS side Charleston Battery, and went 1-4 in July, winning only a meaningless final group match 1-0 over Pumas UNAM en route to being eliminated from the SuperLiga.

A week away. Fire fans will miss David Beckham at Toyota Park for the second straight year. The Los Angeles 35-year-old midfielder has not played this season after tearing his Achilles tendon while on load with Italian club AC Milan earlier this year. The former England captain announced he plans to return for the Galaxys September 11th match against the Columbus Crew. Beckham missed last years match in Bridgeview due to a red card suspension.

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Fast Break Morning Update: Scott Darling leads Blackhawks to win over Blues

Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Sunday:

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

What if… Cubs GM Jed Hoyer’s takeaways from epic World Series Game 7

Quick hits: Blackhawks start strong in win over Blues

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Michigan State gets big win to boost tourney hopes, while Wisconsin loses for fourth time in five games




Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling shines in fill-in duty as Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Scott Darling found out at 8 o'clock this morning that he was starting for an ailing Corey Crawford. Considering he did this back in December for a few weeks, adjusting quick for one game was fine.

"It's kind of my job," Darling said.

And Darling, once again, did his job.

Darling stopped 30 of 32 shots and Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night. The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 games. They're one point behind the Minnesota Wild, who made their splashy trade-deadline move in acquiring Martin Hanzal on Sunday. But the Blackhawks, thanks to veterans regaining their form, a top line finding its rhythm and youth consistently improving, are just rolling right along.

"We had a great start to the game. I thought Darls was excellent all night, great stretch there in the last 10 minutes where we fight through some tough shifts, particularly in the last couple of minutes in our end. But good win," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You look at the nice plays on the goals, it was kind of a comparable ending to the outdoor game: tied and about the same time they scored, we scored (tonight). Big two points for us."

Jonathan Toews scored his 16th of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winning goal with 5:20 remaining in regulation. Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game.

The Blackhawks already knew they'd be without Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) for at least a day or two when they found out Crawford couldn't go this morning. As Quenneville said Darling was strong once again, denying the Blues all but twice (a 2-on-1 goal from Magnus Paajarvi and a power-play goal from Alex Pietrangelo).

Toews and Kane (power-play goal) staked the Blackhawks to a 2-0 lead early before the Blues tied it in the second. But late in the third period Anisimov took the feed from Artemi Panarin to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead.

"I saw the puck all the way. It was easy to pick up," Anisimov said. "When you don't see the puck at the last moment and it comes, it's hard to receive and prepare for the next move. But I saw it all the way. Easy to prepare for the next move."

Speaking of next moves, do the Blackhawks make any more before the trade deadline. General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday, following the acquisition of Tomas Jurco, that he'll keep talking and listening but likes the group he has right now. If Bowman's made moves it's for what the Blackhawks have needed, not because of another team's trades. The Blackhawks like what they have right now. Winning nine of 10 and continuing to trend in the right direction, they should be careful not to disrupt what they've got going.

"I think we're, as we've said lately, trending the right way. We're playing solid. I think all four lines are contributing in every which way," Toews said. "I love our group right now. Everyone is getting better individually, contributing more and more and it's a lot of fun to see the way we're playing right now. We know that the ceiling is way higher and we can keep getting better too."