Former Fire defender Jim Curtin and the Philadelphia Union visit Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon in a confrontation between two rebuilding sides. The Union are off to a good start with two wins in their first three matches, including a victory over the Fire's last opponent, the Columbus Crew. Veljko Paunovic talked about the upcoming match and whether or not his most effective offensive weapon will be available this coming weekend during his weekly media conference call.
Here are the highlights:
On David Accam's injury and availability
"David is recovering well. We still don't know if he will be able to be on time for Saturday's game but he is recovering well. We're happy with that. We'll have to check his status day by day and see how he will recover for the game. At this point we can't say if he can play or if he will be able to play in the game against Philly."
On the Doody and Conner loans to Saint Louis FC
"We decided a long time ago. We were waiting for the right game to send them there because we believe that young players need to play. In order to develop well they have to have games. Play in real games and competition is very important. We were talking about sending them before but we believe that this is the right moment for them to play to help them, the teams - Saint Louis and us."
On Patrick Doody and Drew Conner helping the Fire this year
"In the future we are thinking about sending more players back and forth to get minutes. We have to understand that there are a lot of young players that we have, that the last game they played ninety minutes was maybe six or four months ago. In that order we have to understand that's good for everyone."
"We see them as players that we are investing time and investing energy for them in order to develop. We have to see, like everyone else, in the future how they will develop and how their progress will be. Yes, we think that they have good potential and we want to invest in them."
On Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent playing against the Union
"We do expect them to be available but we have to check their status after tomorrow's game and see how they recover. (Depending on) how many minutes they will get, if they will be be fine, if there's not any unexpected issues with their status. If everything is fine and they recover well we will expect them to be eligible for the game on Saturday."
On Polster's play with the U23's on Friday
"United States played in a diamond and he played a little bit differently. Matt has a fantastic attitude and also a fantastic player, he knows how to play that role. I think he did very well for the team. I can't tell you what the goals were and what he was asked to do in the game but I can tell you that his attitude and his performance was very good for the team."
On the Union game
"Philadelphia is a team that's performed very well this season. They started very well this season. We prepare for everyone and want to win. We respect our opponents and expect to play good soccer."
"It's early to say what the plan is but what we want to do is keep defensive level and keep more possession. We want to have more possession and convert those chances that we had in other games."
"Right now we're more solid defensively, but we have to maintain that. We have to keep possession to be effective."
"For everyone winning is very important. We know it won't be easy. We have a good opponent in front of us, who for me personally brings many memories. It's a team that I played for in my last year as a professional and they treated me very well. I'm very grateful to Philadelphia for the opportunity they gave me to finish my career but now we're in different situations. I have maximum respect and admiration for that city but we want to win."
On specific areas of training over the last week
"We improved our fitness. We had some injured guys that are recovering. Arturo (Alvarez) and (John) Goossens were able to train today with the rest of the group. The rest of the guys last week improved their fitness and some aspects of the game, like possession, defensive shape and (staying) compact, and also we worked on our finishing. This is where we are basically focused at this point and we believe that these are the next steps that we have to (improve) in order to win and create and good and very competitive team."
On injuries and timing for international break
"We prepared in advance a long time ago. It was a good week behind us to improve our fitness and improve our technical and tactical set-up that we have to improve. For us, it was a good week behind us and now we are preparing for the next game and how we want to play. It's still early to talk about it but we want to be successful. We want to win this game. We want to have more possession. We just have to be solid and score goals. Maybe not in the last game, but before that we proved that we are a team that creates a lot of opportunities. We have to take advantage of them and we have to score more."
On what is needed on Saturday
"To create more opportunities and score. That's what we are in need for in order to win."
On what Sean Johnson needs to do to get back into the line-up
"To be available one hundred percent. To work like everyone and just to be patient. To give his quality and push himself farther. I'm answering the question about Sean Johnson, but that's the same for everyone. I will just say that we have to understand that everyone is trying to win his spot on the roster and on the field with the starting eleven. This is the same for everyone else."
On possible roster additions during this window
"We are working on that. We will talk about (them) when something is done. I will say that we are working on that but this is a best question for Nelson and he can give more insight on that."
On the challenges of keeping focus during the break
"We explained the goals to the guys and explained what we want to achieve last week and the week to come. We set all of those goals on the fitness level, on the technical and tactical level, on mentality and how we can improve that. We worked together on that. It helps for them to know how we are going to do and why we are going to do it. That helps. I would say that we are very happy so far with what we did over the long break that we had. At the same time starting from today, we can feel that the guys are more fresh and now they know they have to prepare for the game. That helps in order to work better to improve the quality and even the thoughts."
On the mentality and balance between long term plan and short term results
"At the same time we are working on the short term and the long term. It is very important to find the right balance. We know that there are two approaches and the most immediate is the one that we have to prepare each week for the team to compete and be the best we can be to win games. This is one. At the same time, in the long term, we can always see improvement in a style or detect something that we have to work on more. It's a lot of analysis and a lot of meetings to of the staff. We are really working hard. I am really proud of the players and everyone in the club, especially staff who is giving maximum, one hundred percent, in every day, in every session, in every meeting, and in every game."
On the crowd at Toyota Park for the Columbus game
"We're working hard. We want the people that come here to support us and that's what we value. The people were very supportive. If we perform well and win games we will attract even more people to come. We understand and we are very grateful to the people who are coming to the stadium. We can assure that we want to always give our best. I have said many times before, we are in the process of building a team that our fans will like and they will enjoy."
On cold weather affecting play
"We can't control these things. What we can control is what we are doing and how we prepare. Soccer is a very complex game. There's not many factors that you can put under control, but things that you can we have to work on that. We'll focus on that ourselves. We're focusing on how to work and we are working on analyzing and trying to prepare for the next game and next opponent. Those are things that we can control and contribute in order to build a successful team."
On Eric Gehrig's status and injury rehab
"Eric is fine. He's fit. He's obviously needs games to play so we decided to send Eric this week to Saint Louis for the next game that they are going to play on the 30th. We believe that we can decide there, but we expect that he will get some minutes in order that he can be better prepared for the game against Philly or our next game. We're not putting any deadline in front of him, or us. We just want Eric to recover well and field some minutes in the game and after that we can evaluate how he feels and how everything is. At this point he is good to go. We talked to him and he accepted obviously, and he is very happy that he can get some minutes playing in Saint Louis."
On whether or not the league is what he expected
"I'm very happy with everything. Going back to when I came here, everything is as I expected or better. I feel that I'm challenged every day by being better and getting better information. Communicating better with my players, with the environment and surroundings. I'm challenged to speak in different languages but everything is as I expected. We have guys that you have to explain in English. Some guys during the preseason in German or in Portuguese, things like that. I'm full challenged and I feel very, very happy about it. On the other side, teams and the level of the league, as I played here, is what I expected. It's very high and I'm always challenged as a coach to use all my skills and experiences and knowledge in order to build the team and be competitive."