Fire notebook - prep for Union, Gehrig's return, Accam's status, and more

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."

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • Guys do you think that pauno and Rodriguez read the papers. Do they realize that things are not all right in chicago fire. After reading anything from pauno all you hear is that everything is good and that preperations are going as scheduled. I am confused I thought that the goal is always to win today not three years from now. Without accam this weekend could be a killer. I was thinking about going but with no offensive I probably won't.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    I imagine that they realize that things are not all right with the Chicago Fire. The question is whether they are the right people to fix the problems.

    I don't believe that they have their ideal roster in place yet. How they are going about finding the players they need remains a mystery. And I guess the slow progress on building the roster only gets fans more frustrated, given the poor soccer we've seen for so long.

    It's rare to bring a whole new team together and see them running like a Swiss watch after three games. Even the great 1998 Fire team lost five in a row early in that season and eventually turned it around.

    If I can see some progress with this team, I can have confidence that the club has the right guys in charge. But I think I need to see them play over a larger set of games before making any real conclusions.

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    I agree that we can't make any real judgments about the new staff just yet but things dont look quite right so far. I get the whole "be patient" blah blah blah as well and I'm willing to be patient with the transition as long as I'm seeing signs of how he wants to play. So far, in the first 3 games, we have seen long ball after long ball against a terrible NYCFC, poor poor play at ORL, and 90 minutes of "please dont score on us" home to the Crew. Nothing changed from the Yallop way of playing, if you ask me. I know we are not going to be the better team against ANY team that we play this year. I fully accept that. What I wont accept is scared players getting rid of the ball as quickly as they can. I have had enough of that. Long balls to Accam and Iggy is awful soccer and needs to stop. Accam wont be here in 3 years because he will move on. We need to develop an identity and way of playing that is bigger than 1 player. A terrible team is a team that depends on 1 player and hopes they can be win the game. That is what we have been for the past 3 years at least. Pauno's job is to fix that. So far, he is falling, but he has until June of next year to fix that for me. A year and a half is enough time to get the players to play the way you want them too. They dont have to be good next June, they just need to stop playing this way by June, IMO.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I think this is definitely fair.

    However, I think Paunovic has shown more signs of tactical awareness than Yallop ever did. In the NYCFC game, he changed the shape and the second half was better (it was still a bad game, don't get me wrong). In the Orlando game, the players were able to defend a draw on the road a man down. In the Columbus game, changes made in the second half (Stephens and LaBrocca for Goosens and Alvarez) improved midfield possession and further limited Columbus chances (again, bad game specifically from an attacking sense).

    They have been three really rough games, so I'm definitely not ready to say I trust this system and coaching staff. But I am willing to see what he does going forward.

    To wit, I will be disappointed to see Polster behind Goosens and Alvarez again because that created a massive void between the forwards and the midfield. The Fire need to be able to keep possession in the midfield or all the attacks will just be long balls over the top. We'll see.

  • In reply to TomazPP:

    I guess I was just hoping for more of a style that he was going to try and play. I also know that it has only been three games, but from those three games, it seems like our only plan is to get the ball to Accam over the top. When Accam was going to be out, Pauno went with 7 defenders and hoped they didnt score. He didnt care if we scored or not. He didnt want them to score so he set up with a 5-2-1-2 formation that was the worst, most boring formation I have seen at Toyota Park. He better never play that again. That was a formation that is trying to be successful (getting points) for this season. That formation cant possibly be part of the "3 year plan." That seemed like a formation from someone that had no idea what to do now that his only attacking option is out. That is what I find unacceptable. Accam wont be here at the end of this 3 year plan. He probably doesnt want to be here now. Once he starts playing more for Ghana, he will get that work permit and he will be gone. Making him the only focal point going forward seems like a mistake.

    I guess my problem with everything is that, IMO, they dont even think about the game in the right way. I understand if you dont possess the technical ability to play a 40 yrd driven ball to switch play, but they should all have the ability to keep the ball on the ground and play it to someones feet. There has been a 5 minute stretch (first 5 against Columbus) where they did that. They seemed to then think that they were playing too much soccer so they dropped back and prayed they didnt get scored on.

    I guess the more I talk and think about it, I just want them to be better at soccer.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    They definitely need to be better at soccer, but I think that starts out of the back.

    I don't think you can build possession if you are constantly panic defending.

    If we are at the point in a couple games where they still look like a 53(0)2, with 8 guys behind the ball and 2 forwards running around with their heads cut off, I'll be pretty upset. That said, for the most part, the "5" of that lineup did their job, which I think was a reasonable priority number one coming into the last 2 games (after the implosion against NYCFC). The wingbacks need to be better involved in possession, but they had next to zero help from the middle of the field. I like Polster, but, watching him with the U-23s even, it's clear he doesn't have the ability to play out of pressure, which is pretty much imperative for possession. I really think the attack would be much better and possession would be much better and the "soccer" would be much better if the Fire had a ball handling box to box mid always on the field next to Polster.

    in other words, that formation sucked because it played like a 532 while in possession too. Ideally it should have been a 352/3142 in possession.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Agree with Tomaz on tactical points. I'd like to see more of the confident play we saw in pre-season. That impressed me.

    The one thing that does differ from yallop's time is that Pauno has a game plan and style he is trying to achieve that isn't Whatevering.

  • Read a great piece on the fire in particular and Mls in general
    It's in the blizzard football quarterly issue 20
    You can download whole issue for whatever you wish to pay .You may be familiar with Jonathan Wilson he's the editor. Of course it's not very positive , but pretty spot on. I'd be curious what you guys think .
    It's called fading embers (get it) by jake walerius

  • In reply to Gino azzurri:

    Ive heard the podcast version of it. Interesting to get an angle from an outsider but should also note that the writer watched a game at the end of last season, which shaped some of the commentary....there wasn't much worth watching at the end of 2015. I don't think he said anything that hasn't been said around these parts.

  • In reply to Gino azzurri:

    I agreed with the last 2 minutes where he discussed the only way to appreciate a match is to see it live. Other than that I really didnt enjoy the 30 mins of pissing on MLS and how the rest of the world is superior. Yes, the big 3 in EPL, La Liga, Seria A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga have superior quality. But the mid to low table teams and the 2nd division teams are no better than what we have here.
    Agreed MLS has to fight for its place in an over saturated sports culture, but MLS and its fan base which he thinks are more casual observers are not to blame.

  • Polster has a knee strain of some sort tonight, maybe hanging on from last week.. looks like it could be lingering. Tough loss for those guys missing out on the Olympics.

  • Our guy, Evan Whitfield is on the 2016 veteran ballot for National Soccer Hall of Fame.....

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/03/29/us-soccer-announces-2016-national-soccer-hall-fame-nominees

    Somebody named Wilman Conde, is also on the player list this year.

  • So since Accam is more than likely out for Saturday does that mean Pauno will go with the 8-1-0-1 formation and park the bus again?

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