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Pappa hat trick leads Chicago past RSL

Sep 29, 2011 - 3:33 AM Sandy, UT (Sports Network) - A hat trick from Marco Pappa helped the Chicago Fire earn a surprising 3-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Pappa scored twice in the opening half and added a third 15 minutes from time, as the Fire claimed only their second road win of the year.

With the win, Chicago (36 points) sits just three points shy of the final wild card playoff spot, currently held by Red Bull New York (39 points).

Chicago got off the mark in the 9th minute, when a throw-in made its way from Dan Paladini to Pappa at the top of the box. Pappa curled a shot with his weaker right foot just inside the far post, past a diving Nick Rimando.

Two minutes later, things went from bad to worse for Real Salt Lake, as Kyle Beckerman was shown a straight red card for head-butting Paladini.

The Fire took advantage of the sending off, as Pappa doubled the lead in the 36th minute. Pappa received a pass from Pavel Pardo in the box and curled a low left-footed shot around Rimando for his second goal of the game.

Pappa completed his hat trick in the 75th minute following a fine solo effort. He collected possession on the right flank and beat his defender to get into the box. Pappa punished Real Salt Lake for not closing him down, as he placed a shot in the upper corner with his left foot.

The only bright spot for Real Salt Lake came in the 60th minute when Javier Morales entered the match, making his first appearance since dislocating his ankle against Chivas USA on May 7.

It is just the third home loss of the season for Real Salt Lake, which has already clinched a playoff berth. It has lost two straight league matches after falling to D.C. United 4-1 on Saturday.

Chicago continues to roll, winning its third straight match. The Fire are 5-1-2 in their last eight matches.

Both teams face tough matches in their next outings on Saturday. Chicago (7-8-15) returns to action on Saturday, heading to Robertson Stadium to face the Houston Dynamo, while Real Salt Lake (15-9-6) travels to The Home Depot Center to play the league-leading Los Angeles Galaxy.