The Fire head into a busy stretch after having to sit idle for two of the last three weekends. A good test comes Wednesday night in Vancouver with a game in New England following on Saturday. The team will be on the road for more than one solid week ahead of another Wednesday/Friday combination during the next round.
Veljko Paunovic told media during his weekly conference call that David Accam and Khaly Thiam are out for at least the Vancouver game. John Goossens will also be unavailable for the road trip.
Here are the highlights of the conference call:
"I believe we did a good job in the last few weeks (with byes). We also wanted to prepare for this long and tough trip. Vancouver is a great team. In the last game they performed very well against Portland. They're in a very good form, which means for us it will be even more difficult. I believe completely in our possibilities. I believe that we did a great job, not only this week but in the weeks behind, during the first part of the season and the preseason too. I think at some point this has to give us some return. The effort, the commitment, and the persistence so far that we have was great. I believe that in the coming games, and moving on against Vancouver that we can get some return on it."
On upcoming games on turf
"We want to see that our guys are full-go. Most of them are. David Accam is not going to travel to Vancouver but he will join us for the game in Boston because we are working still on his fitness and we want to take advantage of this possibility to build up his fitness level. Goossens is out also because of the injury that he has. He is still in the process of recovery. He still needs some time. Another thing is on Khaly (Thiam), he didn't get his visa for Canada and he will not be in Vancouver, the same as David he will join us in Boston."
On goalkeepers for the trip
"Patrick (McLain), Sean (Johnson), and Matt (Lampson) are all on the trip. We are taking all of our available players on this trip."
On the goalkeeper position becoming a team distraction
"I don't see any situation."
On squad rotation for the trip
"We are taking into consideration the minutes and the load of the games in the season so far. It's important for us. We are planning long term. We basically always prepare for the next game. We want to win the next game with the best possible available players for that game. Of course, at some point there will be some rotation. You can see already that we did some rotation in the last game, either because of the injuries or like in the case of Michael Harrington when he got the red card sanction. For this trip, some rotation may happen but I prefer to think about it when we are close (to games). When that happens we decide on what and when we are going to rotate."
On Thiam's status
"I think he fits very well in this locker room. Guys like him. They also enjoy playing with him. It's difficult to say after one week that he's fully integrated but he's integrated the most that somebody can be for this short period of time. He's doing great. His fitness is very good. He's coming from a season. We also have that in consideration so the first three days we gave him off (for recovery). He's also not going to travel to Vancouver. We are taking advantage of that to give him some rest and prepare him for the coming games. His quality is that he is very good on the ball. He's a guy who likes to have possession and that's something that we were lacking. I think he's going to help improve that part of the game. He also tries to score. He takes shot from distance and he's attacking the ball. Everything that we need at this point."
On what the team needs to improve on
"Since the game against DC United we haven't had another opportunity to prove ourselves. I think we still need to improve in all aspects. We need to improve on creation of chances and converting them. We need to get better everywhere but those are things that we're still lacking. The best chance to do that is by playing games. We need games to prove ourselves and get better."
On the Eastern Conference so far
"I think the Conference is actually as I expected. It's very competitive. We all have ours strengths and weaknesses. In every game there is a big challenge to take advantage of the weaknesses of the opponent and try to hide yours, or at least outperform (opponents) in the area of the game that you lack. It's very competitive. For me it's very challenging and this is actually a very difficult Conference where everybody can beat everyone. We can see that every week and in every game how many times that happens. I'm very challenged and very happy that we are playing in this great conference."
On the importance of winning now considering record this season
"It's absolutely important to get points. To win games, first because we are working hard. We are pushing hard. We are waiting for some return and that return must come in the way of winning games and getting points. The other (reason), is that we can see our opponents in our Conference are playing games and we are behind a couple of games. We don't want that gap to become bigger with points that we are now behind (on). We know where we are. We know that from the very first start. Every game for us is a Final. We always go with the mentality and the mindset to win games but we also have to understand that (we have) to be patient and we can't let that impatience to overwhelm us and get (overcome) with anxiety. It's a great chance for us to improve and win games."
- Accam trained with the team and on the side today. He'll stay in Chicago for the next few days before flying to New England. He'll available for the Revolution but may not see much action there with another game on artificial turf. It's more likely that he returns fully against the New York Red Bulls one week from Wednesday.
- Khaly Thiam has not received a visa for Canada, which rules him out on Wednesday but he's clear to play in the US. He's likely to make his Fire debut against the Revolution.
- Patrick Doody is with the team but not training. He is away from Saint Louis FC while nursing a hamstring injury.
- Drew Conner started and played well in Saint Louis FC's 3-0 win over Swope Park Rangers this past weekend.
- The MLS transfer window closes on May 11. That would mean the Fire need to close a deal quickly with Michael de Leeuw to have him available now. FC Groningen has Europa league qualifying playoff games on Thursday and Sunday. De Leeuw would have to be released from those games and his contract in order to be eligible to play for the Fire in May and June. Barring some wheeling and dealing in the next 48 hours, given de Leeuw's continued role as a starter for his current club, it's sounding more likely that he joins the Fire during the summer transfer window, which opens on July 4.