Fire notebook - NYCFC rematch, road winless streak, Accam injury, and more

At 26 consecutive games without a win on the road, the Fire are one game away from equaling the all-time MLS record for futility away from home. Veljko Paunovic wasn’t around for the first 25 and he addressed the difficulty of winning on the road in MLS, preparing for a rematch with NYCFC, and a variety of other topics during his weekly conference call.

Here are the highlights:

On the streak and preparing for road games

“We prepare for every game differently for sure, but we want to win all our games. Depending also on the players that we have and if there is any issues with our roster, and also depending on the opponent we have, we prepare all the games differently. The same thing about it is that all the games we want to win. Playing and winning on the road is more difficult in this league. We are aware of that, but we strongly believe that the best possible way to win games on the road is to analyze the opponent, prepare the best we can prepare from our standpoint, physically, technically, and tactically, and then prepare our game plan and execute it well. This is what we always did and this is how it will work. We know the circumstances, weather, turf, altitude, whatever in the future will be a condition that we will have to adapt.”

On the rematch with NYCFC

“We have our honor hurt here after the first game and wanted to win our presentation to our fans. We lost the game against New York and our honor is hurt. We feel like we have something there that we want to solve, like a payback for us. It’s something that we’re looking to in this game. We want to be competitive (but) totally respectful for a great team that New York had here. We feel there is something special about this game and we will prepare very well to pay back.”

On the smaller pitch in NY

“We do have discussions in our staff meeting about that. We will look to adjust our dimensions of our practice field for that game. That’s a smaller adjustment than playing against a great team who will now have more players back and players who will have the full week to prepare for our game.”

On NYCFC playing differently at Yankee Stadium

“They play differently when they play at home but still the essence of their play is very offensive. They have very good individual quality and they know how to play as a team, especially when they play at home. They feel even more comfortable. We can say that they didn’t prove it with the results, but in the games that I saw them play I always have seen a team who wants to win and a team who plays spectacular soccer and creates a lot of chances. They are very intuitive. They have very talented players. These kinds of things make big teams in this league and everywhere. I know they are going to be more comfortable in the game against us and they will for sure prepare well.”

On defending and stopping David Villa

“There is a lot of pieces in that. First, it’s how the ball comes to Villa. That’s what you have to solve first. Once the ball is close to Villa, how he moves, and what he does in order to receive the ball – you have to solve this too. When he gets the ball, what is he doing with the ball and how is he doing (it) - you have to prepare for it and solve that and actually help the guy that is challenged by Villa in 1v1 situations, where he is great. How we can help him with another player to solve that problem, if he can’t do it by himself. There are a lot of pieces, talking just generally, but he’s a great player. They know as a team how to get to Villa. But it’s not only Villa. There’s more players. You saw Shelton in that game and how difficult it is for us to defend his qualities. There’s also McNamara, Mix, everyone on their team is capable of doing great things and they are dangerous.”

On David Accam’s injury status and availability

“He is in the final stage of his recovery. We will see if he can be ready for this game. He’s still not full go but later this week we can talk about his status. He is recovering very well. We will see day by day how he performs and see if he can be ready for this game.”

On Michael Stephens’ game vs Philadelphia

“Very happy with his performance. Being the first start for him this season, I think he did very well. I think the energy and his attitude was contagious to the rest of the guys and also the great attitude from the whole midfield, Cocis and Polster too, was something that we improved in our game and that helped us to have more possession in our game and created more opportunities too. For me, the crucial moment was in that play where we scored the goal, when Mikey Stephens gave us a pause, gave us a break in trying to build the play that was finally converted into our winning goal. Credit on that to Mikey, but to the whole team for that who had been very patient in that play and a great conversion from Kennedy too.”

On Stephens getting more time

“In our team, and you can go back and see Razvan played the first game and scored a goal then he didn’t play two games from the start. Everybody has a role and everybody has to be available for the team when the team needs him to give his best. We are very happy with everyone how they understand that everyone has to earn their role and interpret that role, not only in the game but also during the week practicing and preparing for the game. It really does matter who we are playing against and who is going to play. It matters, but also when you are performing on a high level it also helps to have every player to have more possibility to start every game.”

On returning to a 4 man back line vs Philadelphia

“We needed more possession. We were talking about it in the last week and we feel that in that system playing with four in the back, 4-2-3-1 actually, you can have a great possession play with three also, but 4-2-3-1 helped our team be more comfortable on the field when we want to have possession. That helped a lot. This is why we decided to play and in practice it went well. I believe we improved, but we still have to improve more in our possession and our patience in recognition when we have to progress. For us, there are two build-ups. One is when you’re starting the play building out of the back and then when you come to the opponent’s half if you can finish quickly then you have to find another and create another build-up in the opponent’s half.”

On training and the line-up

“Everyone has to be engaged. Everyone has to feel and know that he can play and be ready, and should be ready when the team needs him. It helps to increase our level of awareness, of attitude, of good teamwork during the week, and also the competitiveness is higher in every training. This is what we are looking forward to do in every game. To be competitive. Everything starts from that attitude in training. The guys are very comfortable with that. They understand that if I’m doing good, if I’m having a right attitude, if I’m practicing the way I have to play because that’s the rule in our locker room – in order to play good, you have to train good. They see that they have chances and they play. They are involved and if they’re comfortable with that it’s perfect. Everybody has to earn it and so far from the start, we are proving that that’s really how it is.”

On Cocis playing a more advanced position

“I talked to him before the game. Razvan played in that position a long time ago. He performed very well and I think Razvan has a very good shot from distance. He’s capable to attack the box and score goals and that’s what we encourage in him and we wanted him to do in this game. Not only for this game but in the future too. That’s something that’s part of his game that we want to recover and we’re working on that because he can be very useful for the team. We saw in that game that he can do that and we’re very happy about it because that increases more our possibilities and our game in the midfield.”

On Polster’s work load

“We are still working with Matt’s recovery and reintegration to what is normal weekly routine after being with the National Team, where we believe he did a great job. He’s emotionally a bit more exhausted, but he’s a great guy. He’s doing very well in his recovery and integration. In a couple of days, he will be fine and ready to go fully with the rest of the guys. So far this is no issue for him to be on the roster for the next game.”

On his first MLS win versus his former team

“I’m so grateful to Philly that they gave me the opportunity to finish my career in the best possible way. I and my family have been treated so well. We had a great year as a team, reaching the playoffs that year and really enjoying playing soccer with Peter Nowak as a coach and the rest of the guys. It was a great year for us. From then to now, when the roles are different playing against Philly, getting that first win increased somehow that gratitude I have for the club, for the city, and for the fans who treated me very well. It’s something symbolic maybe.”

On judging possession statistics and what is effective possession

“I would say that statistics and all that data helps. We improved but I’m not happy how, especially during the game, there is some situations where you have to take control of the game and have the possession. Those situations happen during a game many times and this is how you determine if our possession was effective or efficient and if it was helpful for us. Either when we want to take control to recover from the long effort or long time running without the ball or transitions for that. Either when we want to take control in order to prepare, build, and create dangerous plays and situations to score goals. This is what is happening during the game. We have to look and improve those moments when we recognize that now is the moment to do that or do the other things that I mentioned before. This is how we say how really efficient we were with our possession. All of the data helps. We improved but there is still a lot to go to improve our possession and be on that level where I’ll be happy with.”

On clean sheets and possession

“If you want to have a clean sheet, just keep the ball in your possession. That’s not easy. That’s how possession helps offensively too. What I’m trying to say is, when you have the ball you appreciate the ball. It’s not only to have possession and progress and score and create opportunity. In order to create opportunities but at the same time you have defensive awareness by having the possession. It’s all the pieces that have to work perfectly together. It’s something that we are still working on and have to improve.”

On playing on during injury (ie NE v NYRB this weekend)

“Our policy of our club is that we are not addressing any situations regarding referees or regarding the other team. We encourage our players to play fair. Have fair play and be sportsmen on the field. If any time possible, maybe because of the crowd you can say something on time and then you can solve any situation that is happening on the field, do it. That’s for the good of the game and the good of everyone in this game, which we all love. At the same time, that’s not possible always. It’s a very difficult and very dynamic game, soccer is to be aware of everything that is going on. We always encourage our players to do the best for the game, be fair, be sportsmen.”


  • What position is Michael de Leeuw best at? He's played attacking midfield, center forward, second striker, right and left wing during his four seasons at FC Groningen. Here's a list of every game he's appeared in. He's played lead forward and behind in a 4-2-3-1, underneath in a 4-4-2, center mid in a 4-4-2, and all of the attacking spots in a 4-3-3. 
  • A breakdown of his career at FCG in all competitions to date (GP/GOALS): Attacking mid (65/23), Forward (61/26), Right wing (6/0), left wing (4/6), Right mid (1/0)
  • Patrick Doody started and played all 90 minutes in Saint Louis FC's 3-1 win over Orange County Blues this past weekend. Drew Conner also started and played 61 minutes.

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


Leave a comment
  • Would you ever expect Andy to invest this type of money into the academy or even training facilities?

  • In reply to penapirata:


  • In reply to penapirata:

    See, that's the difference between having a local owner and an absentee owner whose base of operations is on the west coast. A local owner would invest in not only the team but also the community and in growing the team's and sport image locally, whereas an absentee "investor-owner" is just looking to grow his investment/team with minimal capital and hopefully with public money.
    The RSL plans for the facility is an all out investment in the local communities that surround it. It includes a charter school (boo!!! [end of commentary] and room and board for academy kids. That kind of investment serves to tighten the fanbase's connection with everything RSL, especially soccer related. The teams' return is a loyal fanbase and guaranteed STH revenue year after year.
    Someday, I guess, a local owner interested in our local kids and the potential explosion in fandom will step up and we will have a fire rebirth because I've seen nothing to indicate this is even remotely possible with the current group. That link with the fanbase and potential fan explosion is hanging by a thread and only mistrust exists. I feel, that the Chicago Fire fans are often talked down to and told to trust that which has lied to us time after time. Some of us keep coming back no matter what, while most, judging from the attendance and function turnouts, are beggining to stay away. But don't question or ask the team for details, lest you become and "enemy of the fire" or have your loyalty questioned.
    I can't be like that Don dude and blindly follow the FIRE. I expect more from a team in this market and I think ALL of us should and deserve better.

  • In reply to FireRog:

    Just out of curiousty... are you wondering whether AH would invest in the city like this: Or whether their would be a chicago fire recreational soccer league? or whether they would do charity events for the community....

    Just wondering, because maybe its not an issue of the Fire not doing those things because they do... Maybe its an issue of them not promoting it well enough.

  • In reply to edubs:

    I don't buy the soccer bubble argument as truly investing by Andy when you consider that the 1st team and academy has to pay to rent the facility just like the rec teams do.

  • In reply to edubs:

    I think folks see the Fire Pitch as a separate business venture and would rather see that investment directed toward the first team in areas that are lacking.

    That said, the community outreach work they do is a good thing that people don't give much credit for.

  • Guillermo you have Michael de Leeuw under notes with his stats.
    Are the Fire for sure signing Michael?
    I know there has been rumors regarding it for a few months now.

    Thank you for the updates and news you give us...we are in the dark with the front office for many years now since Andrew bought the team.

  • In reply to smiley:

    It's not "done" but pretty close from what I understand. That said, they've been close before on players only to have it fall through.

  • Khaly Thiam started and played 90 minutes in MTK Budapest win today. They've got another game on Saturday.

  • Guys firerog hit a home run with his note. I have a friend in the mls office. When I complain to him about Hauptman he shrugs his shoulders and says Hauptman just doesn't have enough money to compete. There is nothing that can be done until he chooses to sell the team.i gave up my season tickets of 20 years until he sells. That's the only way we are ever going to get someone that treats a Chicago team equal to or better than the other teams in the league is to boycott this bum. I do watch every game and probably will get to a few games but I will no longer be part of the always support active fans base that owners need to legitimize their actions. Why is Orlando a more exciting team after year and a quarter than the fire?

  • Andrew's money was never his to begin with. He should be forced to sell the team. I still believe that the league is putting pressure on him to improve the team sooner rather than later which is why NR was brought in. GR I know you disagree with that, but I think there is more going on. The league needs Chicago to be a success. NASL coming to town will only increase that pressure.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Rodriguez may have been recommended by folks working in the league office but he wasn't placed here with any intention or ulterior motive to act as a caretaker ahead of a new owner a la Chivas USA.
    The league definitely needs Chicago to succeed but I haven't heard any real evidence to suggest that NR is a league operative.

  • Totally agree Krasov! Hauptman''s ownership of the Fire is a gift from his wife so that he can sit at the table with the big boys and pretend that he's "all grown up". As long as his investment is positive his wife's family will let him play make-believe and the Fire will continue to bump along the bottom of MLS. Really a sad state for a great club!

Leave a comment