Both Sean Johnson and David Accam participated in full training yesterday morning. Frank Yallop told reporters in his weekly conference call that he won't rush Accam back and will continue to monitor his progress in practice this week before deciding on his status for the upcoming San Jose game. Joevin Jones started in left midfield against the Whitecaps and played well enough to possibly get other looks when Accam isn't available. "I liked him there," Yallop said of Jones. "He's kind of playing in a spot that if David ended up starting, I'm looking at David playing that wide left spot for us. I think JJ had a good game. I think he's very versatile and very clean on the ball and very comfortable and I think he did a nice job there. He hadn't played there for a while but I told him he could handle it and he felt comfortable. To be fair, in the game he didn't have a ton of chances but could have scored a goal with the one chance he had. It would have been nice to cap it off with that in what I thought was a pretty good display at wide left. We'll see how David gets through the week first. I do not want to risk him just to get him a game and get him re-injured."
Yallop will have some decisions to make when Accam and Shaun Maloney eventually receive call-ups in the near future. The time missed for National Team duty may impact the line-up once everyone is available but the Fire will need to make due. "I've had him (Accam) a total of probably seventy minutes on the field in training sessions and sixty minutes in a match. To expect a lot from him right now would be asking (alot of) things. I think the traits he has are great but it's going to take a lot for him to get his game sharp and get our guys used to him a little bit. It's just good to have two more players back healthy. We've got a couple to go but it starts to build some continuity with the team. We've got to figure out, if David does go away with the National Team, we're going to be missing him and Shaun Maloney for a game here so it will be a little disjointed," said Yallop.
Polster's first start
Rookie Matt Polster got the nod as the holding midfielder in Saturday's 4-1-4-1 alignment and overcame some apparent early jitters to settle down and play well enough to stay in the game day rotation. "I thought Matt did well. After getting a yellow card in the first thirty seconds of the game, it felt like, I felt sorry for the kid," said Yallop. "He's enthusiastic and I don't think any of his fouls were bad. The referee should realize that you should just say "settle down, I understand you're excited". We're hoping that the officials know this kid is making his home debut and he's going to be enthusiastic. He handled himself after getting an early yellow and played well. The reason I took him out was because of his yellow card because the referee kept signaling if he does one more bad foul, or one foul, he's going to give him a second yellow and send him off. It kind of changed things for me because I wanted to leave Matt on and I thought he was doing great."
Line up changes
Yallop has yet to find the right balance of players and formation but the Vancouver match was an improvement over the performance in Los Angeles although the result was the same. Yallop noted the improvement but also cited the need to continue along that path. "We've changed it twice (line-up/formation) in the two games we've had," he said. "I thought possession-wise we started dictating the pace of the game on Saturday. We kind of did that without being overly dangerous at times but our general possession was okay. I just watched the game again, 60-40 is always a good stat but there were chances in both boxes. They had obviously a lot of chances and we had not as many, but a few that we could have scored on. That part we have to work on, not giving up as many chances in our box and obviously being more productive in their box."
"I think in the first game we didn't have many chances. We weren't very good from start to finish in that match. I felt in this one (Vancouver) we created enough chances to get on the score sheet but again it's the players that have got to really calm down in those situation and try to finish off the plays. If you look at the chances we had, on a wider angle position we'd given the goalkeeper a chance to make the saves. I think that one I felt was a pretty good chance was Mikey (Stephens) cutting in on his left foot to strike it. I think Jeff had a good volley and both Harry (Shipp) and JJ (Joevin Jones) had good chances. I thought our free kick (that) we worked for Shaun to get a shot off worked and that was going on target until it was blocked near the line. Another day they squirt in. I felt we should have had a penalty kick looking at the tape again but it's about us taking our chances when they come along. Slowly but surely we'll get better chances in better spots and finish them."
"It may take a while but I think we quality we have will shine through in the end. I'm really looking forward to getting Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko back in the fold as well. I just think that once you add all of our quality players, we've got a good chance of doing well."
Victor Perez update
The Fire have agreed to terms with Valladolid and midfielder Victor Perez on a loan transaction but await final approval from the league to add him to the roster. "Right now, it's kind of stuck in paperwork. We have interest in him for sure and we're trying to get him in. It's just not quite finalized yet. I can't really give you a complete answer right now because it could be no. We could get a call and it's a "no". Brian Bliss is working on it hourly. We're just trying to get that figured out," said Yallop.
Perez would give the Fire an upgrade in central midfield that would theoretically improve the link between the back line and the attackers. The 4-3-3 formation that was discussed early in preseason has been apparently shelved but this addition may allow that plan to finally take place. "It's just gives us another option in there. I've done two different formations so far and I feel with the versatility of the team I can do that. I like the fluidity of the team moving around and making it lopsided once in a while for the opposition to try and handle our guys. We'll see. I like the look of Perez and if he fits in we can go back to 4-3-3 or whatever I want to do. It just gives me more options in those spots."
Toyota Park's turf
Tarps protecting the pitch from the elements were removed last Monday and the team practiced for the first time this year on the home field last Thursday. The Village of Bridgeview replaced the entire playing field during the offseason and although the color was a little brown the condition of the turf itself wasn't in bad shape, all things considered. "To be honest, I thought the turf for what it's been through for three months to be under cover and covered in snow, I thought it looked terrific," said Yallop. "I was worried. It played a little bit slow at times but again, I think the turf held up great. It didn't cut up. Both teams got used to it in the end. Is it ideal right now? Of course not, but we're talking March in Chicago."
"It's going to be a good field. I can tell by the turf, the ways it's knitted and stayed together, once it gets green and growing and rolled it's going to be a great surface. We're just trying to play a brand of soccer that's more pleasing on the eye and it's going to take a little bit of time but I want to make sure we've got the right blueprint to do that. We need a good surface and I thank the Stadium to get that done with a brand new field. It didn't look great but it will be okay in the end for sure."
Problems with the playing surface were evident from day one last season but Yallop credited Bridgeview's new stadium staff for addressing the issue early this season. "Last year we had obvious issues with the pitch and with the training field. What's good about it is that they've addressed it and they've hired somebody to make sure that it doesn't happen again, the Village of Bridgeview and the Stadium people here. That's very good. We're excited about that," he said.
San Jose game
The Fire will be serving as the opposition for yet another stadium premiere party this season as the Earthquakes will officially open their new home on Sunday. Yallop was in San Jose for the groundbreaking ceremonies at Avaya Stadium and is cautious of the pomp and excitement created by opening parties. "(We can't) get away from playing our game. If we can continue what we did and grow on what we did on Saturday and just be a little more clinical in the final third, and obviously defend better in ours, and move the ball like we did, we have a chance of winning the game. We can't freeze on the occasion, that's for sure," he said.
"San Jose, I know pretty well with Dominic (Kinnear) usually in a 4-4-1-1 type setup. We've got to make sure that we're ready for that."