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Pappa returns to Chicago as Fire prep for Red Bulls

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Pappa returns to Chicago as Fire prep for Red Bulls

The Fire have lost three straight matches across all competitions, and the absence of midfielder Marco Pappa likely was a factor in that disappointing turn of events.

Pappa is a mainstay of Guatemalas national team, which is involved in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying competition. He left the Fire after playing 45 minutes in 2-1 loss at Columbus on May 26 and didnt play in a 3-2 defeat to the minor league Michigan Bucks in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup May 29 or a 2-0 defeat at New England June 2.

Then the Fire and the rest of Major League Soccer went on a two-week break while the start of World Cup qualifying was in progress. Only Pappa was involved in that among Fire players. He played the first half of Guatemalas 2-1 loss at Jamaica and came on in the second half of a 1-1 draw against the United States on Tuesday.

Pappa is back with the Fire now and will be available for Sundays MLS match against the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park. While the Red Bulls (8-3-2) are off to a fast start in MLS play, the Fire (5-5-3) have lost three of its last four in league play. After the emotional international matches Pappas not sure if hell be on the field for the Fire on Sunday. Coach Frank Klopas will decide that.

"Im feeling good. Im sore like normal and Ive been traveling a lot," said Pappa, who rejoined the Fire at Fridays training session after a four-hour flight back from Guatemala. "I hope I can be ready to play on Sunday."

The Fire certainly need him. After notching the goal-of-the-year in MLS two seasons ago, Pappa followed with a career-high eight goals in 2011. He has three goals and three assists in 12 MLS appearances this season.

Following Sundays match the Fire host again on June 23, when Columbus comes to Bridgeview. Those matches could swing the Fires season, as five of the next seven after that are on the road. Pappas return gives the Fire a big boost.

Internationally, Pappa played a big role in the U.S. match, scoring his countrys goal on a brilliant free kick in the 82nd minute that kept Guatemala in contention in the four-team group competition.

"The World Cup in my country is an important goal, and were trying to win our group," said Pappa, who has played 28 times for Guatemala over the last five seasons. Hes the only MLS player on the Guatemala roster. Most of the others play for clubs in the countrys own pro league.

"We had around 30,000 (spectators for the U.S. match)," said Pappa. "Thats a good number in Guatemala. Last year putting people in the stands was hard, but they really support the national team."

Like the U.S., Guatemala has four more matches in group play and the draw with the U.S. was encouraging.

"For sure we tried to win," he said, "but we were losing and the second half we tried to push the game. We deserved a point, but we have things to improve."

Guatemala has home-and-home matches left with Antiqua & Barbuda, a road match against the U.S. on Oct. 16 and a home battle with Jamaica. The next break for World Cup qualifying is in September, and Pappa hopes the Fire will be in solid playoff position by then.

"We had been getting better each game," he said. "We kept the same group from last year, and we know each other better and better with each game."

Pappa could be facing a former Fire teammate on Sunday. Wilman Conde was a strong central defender for the Fire from 2007-10 when he appeared in 73 matches, was the teams defender-of-the-year in 2009 and a member of the MLS Best XI that season. He left the Fire to play a season in Mexico but returned to MLS with the Red Bulls this season.

Conde hasnt been much of a factor for New York. He hasnt played in an MLS match since March 31 due to a series of injuries, but he did participate in two U.S. Open Cup games and is expected to be available on Sunday. Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls offensive star, might not be ready, though. He missed training earlier this week with a calf injury.

Arne Friedrich, the veteran German defender who has missed considerable time with a right hamstring injury, will likely sit again for the Fire but striker Chris Rolfe is ready for his first match in Toyota Park since he rejoined the Fire following a three-year stint in Denmark. Before heading overseas, Rolfe had huge game for the Fire against New York, scoring three first-half goals in a 5-2 win on Oct. 23, 2008.

Rolfe needed six weeks to recover from a sprained ankle suffered in training shortly after he returned from Denmark. He played 21 minutes in the loss at Columbus in his first game appearance.

Sundays match will also be noteworthy as the second MLS faceoff of former Mexico internationals Pavel Pardo of the Fire and Rafa Marquez of the Red Bulls.

The Fire has never lost to New York at Toyota Park (5-0-3), the last three overall meetings ending in draws. New Yorks last road win over the Fire came when the club, then known as the MetroStars, won at Soldier Field on May 21, 2005.

'Season-defining win'? Cubs are here for it

'Season-defining win'? Cubs are here for it

Smiling came easy for Anthony Rizzo as stood at his locker and fielded questions in a robin-egg blue T-shirt that read: "positive vibes."

This was roughly a half-hour after he went through the high-five line telling all his teammates the 12-11 victory was a "season-defining win" for the Cubs.

Who knows if it will really be that big of a "W" for this ballclub in the midst of what has been an up-and-down season to this point, but there has certainly been no shortage of positive vibes around the clubhouse lately.

One thing's for certain: The Cubs will wake up Thursday morning in sole possession of first place again as the Cardinals lost to the Brewers in a rain-shortened game in St. Louis.

Yu Darvish and the Cubs bullpen squandered a 6-2 lead and then a 10-9 lead. Yet the offense picked up the slack, smacking 14 hits, including Kris Bryant's game-winning two-run blast in the bottom of the eighth inning.

"We haven't won a game like that really all year, I don't think," Rizzo said. "They scored 9 runs in the fifth to seventh innings. Teams don't really win when that happens. Just a good, hard-fought, never-quit win."

Rizzo is right: The Cubs haven't won a game in which they allowed at least 11 runs since Sept. 2, 2017 when they beat the Braves 14-12.

The Cubs have claimed 14 of 17 games at home since the All-Star Break and are now 43-19 at Wrigley Field this season - a winning percentage approaching .700 to combat the .390 winning percentage on the road.

So is it a season-defining victory?

"That's what Rizz told me," Bryant said. "We were high-fiving there and Rizz told me this is a season-defining win. I mean, I can't disagree with him. It's one of those games where you don't feel like you're gonna win just because you take a lead and then you're giving it back, but we came out on top. 

"Definitely some good momentum. We're playing good at home here, obviously and just gotta roll with the records at home and on the road."

Early on, it looked to be a night where the Cubs would cruise to victory behind Darvish, who came into the game red-hot and had settled into a rhythm after serving up a two-run shot to the third hitter of the game.

But that wasn't the case, as Darvish served up four homers overall and Derek Holland and Tyler Chatwood combined to allow 4 runs while notching just two outs as the first arms out of the bullpen.

Before the game, Joe Maddon talked again about how he felt like the only way the Cubs would be able to pull away in a tight NL Central race would be if the offense got into a groove and for one day at least, they were certainly firing on all cylinders.

The only starter who didn't reach base safely at least twice was Kyle Schwarber, and he drove in 3 runs on a homer and a groundout in which he hustled down the line to avoid a double play. Darvish even chipped in with an RBI single in the second inning.

Yes, it was a good win. Yes, the Cubs can go to sleep feeling content and wake up feeling hopeful.

But the only way this becomes a "season-defining win" is if the next five weeks play out like they hope. There have been several wins before Wednesday that seemed like they could propel the Cubs - including the finale in Cincinnati on the last road trip where Bryant once again came through with a clutch late homer. And every time, the team failed to keep the good times rolling for an extended period.

This is all a moot point if the Cubs come out and look flat this weekend or fail to carry any momentum onto the road.

"We'll find out," said Maddon, who has been in this game for nearly four decades. "I mean, I've been involved in those seminal moments and all of a sudden, things switch. 

"I'll tell you one thing though - I liked the method at the plate. Nobody was grinding sawdust; everybody was up there nice and chill and were getting good hacks on good pitches. ... I liked that. That's what we need to get to that point."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Rookie survey surprise, Joakim will double-team anyone

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AP

Bulls Talk Podcast: Rookie survey surprise, Joakim will double-team anyone

On this edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Sean Highkin and Michael Walton join Kevin Anderson.

1:00 The great Chicken Sandwich Wars- believe the hype

5:15 Judging the Bulls missed free throw promotion with Chick-fil-A

9:25 The story of Michael Jordan betting with teammates on the Dunkin Donuts race

11:45 The myth of the special NBA Jams version with Michael Jordan

17:00 How Jordan would have used twitter in the 90’s

18:00 Which player in NBA history would have had the best twitter account

22:20 Are you with Devin Booker or Joakim Noah in the double-team debate?

25:37 On the NBA rookie survey and Cam Reddish winning ‘best career’ vote

Listen to the full podcast here

Bulls Talk Podcast

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