The oddities of the MLS schedule has the Fire coming off of a bye week to face DC United, only to have another off weekend followed by a string of four games in ten days in May. The lack of games may help ease the loss of David Accam, who appears set to miss another match this coming weekend but doesn't seem to make much sense considering the amount of home games in bad weather early in the season.
Veljko Paunovic addressed the schedule, Accam's recovery, the DC game, and more during his weekly conference call.
Here are the highlights:
On whether or not bye weeks help or hurt this early in the season
"After we lost our game against Montreal we want the next game as soon as possible. We believe in having patience and you have to understand that when you have a possibility to work like we did, we have to take advantage of it. That's my thinking about it. It's always helpful when you have two weeks to prepare for the next game and recover and think about analyzing everything necessary in order to be better prepared for the next game after you lose the game. At the same time, the guys who like to compete and I think I'm one of them, in our locker room we also have a lot of guys who are impatient about the next game, which is good. I think that's very positive because they want that payback. They want to show that we can be better, that we can improve and that we can have that possibility to play the next game."
"It's very important for us to have all of our players available, healthy, and in good shape because we have a tough schedule in front of us. We have to manage all the minutes in the games that we have in front (of us)."
On Friday's intra-squad game and Sean Johnson's play with three defensive starters
"I've answered many times. Everybody is fighting for their spot. It's good for us to have Sean back. We're very happy first of all because he is healthy, he can practice, he can compete for his spot. That makes our team better. That makes for sure our practices all the better because now we have more competitiveness in our team. Everyone is there to compete."
"Regarding Patrick McLain, he played for Saint Louis (on Saturday). He did very well. We sent our goalkeeper's coach there to scout the game and to watch his performance. He did very well. We are also very happy. That helps our team and also helps Patrick to improve his overall performance playing games and also it helps our affiliate Saint Louis to win the game."
On David Accam's injury
"The good news is that he is progressing. He is recovering. He is feeling less pain. It's very located, which is good news. After having a meeting this morning with our doctors they feel very comfortable with how he is improving. I don't know for this game but in the next couple of weeks we believe that David can be ready to go back to our team and into the squad and work normally with all the rest of the players."
"I can see that he wants to be back as soon as possible. He is working hard with our medical team for that. He is also a very smart and mature guy and he understands that he has to do his treatments, keep his emotions under control, and don't get frustrated. I believe that the process of recovery and the natural process of the ligament injury where you need 6 to 8 weeks of recovery and right now we are at six. (That's) six to eight weeks of natural recovery, helping with treatments and with everything that he is doing so far. It's not a minor injury and we have to be very smart in our approach and how we are going through the process of his recovery. He would like to be back as soon as possible but he is also very smart in how he is managing that anxiety or that desire to come back and start playing as soon as possible to help the team."
"We don't want to make this injury worse and it takes some time. It's a process. If he can be back for the next game once he's ready and doctors are okay and they can give him a full go, that's perfect. If he can be (ready) for the next game, even better but we don't think so. At that stage not a full return but we can't expect that he can be ready even from the standpoint of his fitness. Six weeks is a lot and after he's ready and recovered from the injury he will need some time to recover his fitness level so he can be ready to play minutes in the game and even a full game."
On Gilberto's slow start
"He needs to better his capacity to score goals. He needs to step up in the coming games. We believe that in the last two weeks he worked very hard and he did very well. We are patient with him but also it important for us that at some point, better sooner than later, that he steps up with scoring goals and helping the team win games. In the scrimmage that we had he scored one goal and he did well, so that was good. We can see that he is eager to work hard, to work for the team. We can see also that he is trying very, very hard to score goals and payback the team what the team is doing for him in order to make him have opportunities to score. I'm happy about it but we have to be realistic and the team needs his performance."
On DC United's winless road record and the upcoming match
"We see this like all games in MLS. They're very competitive and very even. We need to be one hundred percent in all our capacities in order to be competitive and win this game. DC is coming from a good game and a win. They'll be motivated and and want to prove things here. From the first minute we'll need to show that they will have a challenge here and that we want to win more than them."
"I think they have good individual quality. They also have experienced players. Many of them have played a long time together so that's a great advantage for their team. I think they are also very good on the counter and also very good on set pieces. We will work on that to prepare as much as we can and to have them as much as we can in their half and don't concede offensive transitions or counter attacks because they are very dangerous in that. We have to be smart and don't concede fouls, corners, and set pieces in our half."
"We are working on everything. We are working to be solid defensively, which is very important for us. We also have to create more opportunities in the final stages to convert those opportunities and be efficient."
On Joey Calistri's role
"Joey is doing very good. We are fortunate to have a player and a guy like him. He is working very hard during all his time with the team. He had some small opportunities but I think it's important that he can go through this process of developing and getting minutes in the league to go smoothly. We are working on that. As soon as he's ready and as soon as we believe that he can help the team on the field we will not have an issue to get him play. We have a lot of young, talented players and we work with all of them. We also know that for the young players, it's very important to have minutes. Where we can give him those minutes we will look for the opportunities to loan those young players so they can get (minutes) either with our affiliate or either with some club in the league for the short term loan. This is our approach for Calistri and this is our approach for other young players that we have on the squad and aren't having enough minutes. We believe that's important for young players."
"He will have the same role as (he's had) so far. He will be a player that will come out of the bench if something drastically doesn't change. At some point he can start some games but it depends on the circumstances that we have in the next weeks."
On Michael Stephens play
"He earned the spot and opportunity that he's had so far. We believe that he is doing very good for the team. All of us, and I include myself, we have to improve everything that we are doing so far but the attitude is right. The commitment is right too. We are a team that needs everybody engaged and everybody working hard and knowing that he can help the team at some point. I can say that I'm very happy with everyone so far. Everyone is working the same and doing the best they can do. Commitment and attitude is right but depending on what we can do and what we can achieve and (depending) on the opponent's team we need different players on the field."
On whether Polster can play in an attacking role
"He probably could. The thing is that we also have to see when he's playing in the other position, who is playing at the back at the same time when we have wingers or attacking midfielders on the field. It's a tactical question and a question more of the capabilities of each player who is playing on the field. I would say that we are not planning to play him in a position forward at this point."
- Patrick McLain started for Saint Louis FC on Saturday night in their 1-0 win over Sacramento. Drew Conner came on as a sub in the 36th minute.
- Khaly Thiam and MTK Budapest lost to Videoton 5-0 this past weekend and have slipped into fourth place in the OTP Bank Liga. Their final league match is April 30.
- DC's Fabian Espindola will miss the next 2-4 weeks with a hamstring injury.