The Fire will have some help on the way in the form of midfielder Khaly Thiam, who is expected to join the team this week. Thiam's club, MTK Budapest announced a loan to Chicago via their website this morning. The loan will cover the remainder of this year with an option to buy his contract, which expires in June of 2017.
Veljko Paunovic discussed the player and more during his weekly conference call.
Here are the highlights:
On the addition of Thiam
"We are waiting for the official announcement (from the team), but I can tell you that he is going to join us this week. He's going to do a physical and medicals and he will be here. He's very important for us. We believe that the addition of Thiam is very important to increase our competitiveness with his qualities. He's very good on the ball. Very good during aerial drills and his presence on the field is very important. With him, we will increase our competitiveness in the team and of course, within the league."
On Thiam competing with or playing next to Matt Polster
"It's going to be both. He can play in different positions in the midfield. He can play in different systems. So far, we're using 4-2-3-1 as our basic system. He can play either beneath or together with another midfielder. He's going to increase that competitiveness and we can also switch to 4-3-3 or 3-5-2. That quality that he has of being adaptable and playing in different systems and roles is something that we value a lot. It's one of the reasons that we took the decision to sign him."
"He is a pure midfielder. You will see that he can play in different positions and we will use him in the full potential that he has as a midfielder, and a good midfielder he is."
On playing without Polster and Goossens on Saturday
"I think we have players who are always ready to jump in and they showed that in the game. We can always count on them, which is very important for this team. This is something that we were preaching from the very first start. We will need all players. They should all be available. They should all fight for that spot and when the time comes and they have the opportunity to play they have to be ready. This is our approach and it will always be. I will say that the players who played, they did a great job. I think one point, even though we took the lead in the first half, is positive. We are still a team that has to improve, a team that is building the style. As I said before, it is going to take time. I'm very honest with what we are doing and where we are in this process. Right now we are not where we want to be. It's a long way to go still and it's going to take some time but we are very confident that we will reach our goal, which is to be a winning team. In the end be a team that can fight for the playoffs."
"Today (Monday) they still didn't practice with the rest of the team but they are in the final phase of recovery. We believe that by the end of this week they will be cleared and we can have them for our road trip next week that starts in Vancouver."
On Johnson not making the 18 against DC
"I would just say always that it's a technical reason. We have to understand that Sean came back after the injury and is in the process of getting in the right fitness and the right form where he can fight for his spot. That's the only approach that we had. McLain (was sent) to play the game for Saint Louis because we believe it's very important to have on the bench a goalkeeper that you can rely if you need it. The goalkeeper was playing and was fit. That's the only reason. There is nothing behind that. There is nothing against anybody. We need all of our players. We need all of our goalkeepers to be one hundred percent and that's the reason why."
"It's on him and his reaction (to the injury). We want everyone to understand that everybody has to work hard, and I'm not saying that's the case, it's just that you have to be available. You have to give one hundred percent to help the rest of the team. We suggested Patrick McLain to go and play for Saint Louis and he played ninety minutes, he felt very good. We sent our goalkeeper's coach, Aleksandar Saric to work the game. I reviewed the footage of the game. We had a good report. To be honest, I think that's fair."
On the possibility of Johnson getting time in Saint Louis
"It's not the case. We are not in that phase where he demands that. We believe that after being four weeks out, it's important to build competitiveness through our training and sessions. We had that scrimmage game last Friday where Sean played and that helped. It's just the process of competitiveness. We believe that our players and our goalkeepers, they all have to understand that it's going to be a fight. It's not going to be easy. It's not easy for (any)body here. It's a very demanding environment that we are creating and we want people to be uncomfortable in a sense of pushing harder and pushing to be the best he can be to be better. That's how we approach the process at this point with our team."
On the upcoming busy stretch of games
"We believe that we took advantage of those weeks where we were off and we could work on our fitness. We could see that in the last game, at least in the statistics that we have. We over ran DC. We had a very decent, from a physical standpoint, even above the average from the league and the rest of the best leagues in the world, (in) cover distances which is very helpful to see. Of course, we have to improve the efficiency of that running, which is something that we always talk about and we are working on that. We believe that from a fitness standpoint we are in a good position to face the next two weeks on the road. From the mental (standpoint), it's very related one to another. If physically you feel good, your mentality is also increased. Of course, we also know that it's going to be tough. We are talking to our players and have meetings about it to prepare them for the coming road trip which is very important. I'm always going to put this to a positive side and we will have three opportunities to finally break that negative record and win on the road. I see this as a very positive motivation for us to have those games on the road and do that."
On Arturo Alvarez's contribution
"Like everyone, Arturo is very important for our team. When he's at his best, he's very helpful for the team. He helps with his talent and quality and ability to serve balls that are very dangerous. He's done well and we've talked about it with him. We need him to be consistent and ready from one game to the next for the entire season because the season is long and hard."
On the lack of results
"I always like to flip it to the positive side. I said after the game on Saturday, that we were in a very good momentum before the game in New York and we lack that momentum to get to the next level, especially winning the game and earning points. That's one side. Now again we are building that momentum and we want that momentum to come in the next game. That means for me, we are a very young team. We are team that still has a long way to go in order to be very efficient but we are all eager to do that. Work hard. We believe that we are on a good track to create another momentum where we are on another level. That's our goal now. By next level I mean, by winning the game, controlling the game, and being smart in managing the situations and issues that may happen during every game that we have."
On Accam's return on turf
"He improved in the last week fantastically and he is very close to having the possibility to play. I'm going to tell you what is behind him sitting on the bench in the last game on Saturday against DC. We wanted him and we saw very good progression from him (but) he was never planned to play that game. We wanted him to be active in an environment in preparation for the game. Being with teammates and the bench, but also we had a numbers issue on the bench so we took advantage of that situation. He was with us and believe it was very important. For the next game, we are planning to give him (a run). In the next ten days we want to improve fitness. You have to understand that he was out for six weeks. It doesn't matter how hard you work on the side and you prepare, it's a completely different thing from having a rhythm of the game and pace of the game. When you're out for six weeks it affects a lot, so we want to build his fitness and we want him to feel good about participating on the field in every session and every game. It's our plan in the next fourteen days. As soon as he progresses well, and he will, we will manage the minutes in the game and we believe that we will have him at least for the final two games this month. At least for that, full go."
On the next signing after Thiam
"At this point I can only say that Thaly is going to be announced very soon. On the other signing I can't talk about it because it's not close, but yes we have prepared something. When the time comes, Nelson will be the first to address that."
"We are working on finishing. Of course, we need a goal scorer when we will talk about more details when the time comes."
- Sources indicate that the Fire and Michael de Leeuw have agreed to personal terms but the deal has not been finalized. FC Groningen has one game remaining in their regular season and currently sit in eighth place in the Eredivisie. That spot would allow them to play in Europa League qualifying playoffs to be held on May 12 and 15. If they win that round, two more matches would take place on May 19 and 22.
- The MLS window closes on May 11 and the deal would need to be completed before then in order to have de Leeuw available before July. Here's an rundown of the playoff competition in Holland. FC Groningen hold their fate in their own hands.
- Saint Louis FC's match on Saturday against Vancouver Whitecaps 2 was postponed due to lightning and thunderstorms.
- Patrick Nyarko talks about an "emotional" return to Chicago here.