The Fire have a busy stretch of back-to-back Wednesday/Saturday games ahead of them. Next Wednesday's US Open Cup match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers is sandwiched between the upcoming contests against Sporting Kansas City, at FC Dallas on Saturday, and at New England on July 23.
Veljko Paunovic recapped the Toronto game, looked ahead to Sporting KC, and addressed what position Michael de Leeuw will play for now during his weekly media conference call.
Here are the highlights:
Paunovic on the slow start at TFC
"To summarize the game that is behind us at Toronto, I think we didn't start well. Of course, we conceded very early the deciding goal for Toronto in the game. We didn't plan to drop so early on our end and wait to develop the game they did, especially in the first half. I think we did good adjustments in the second half where we switched formations in the game and Michael de Leeuw came on. I think he did very well. He gave us some good attacking options and very good dynamic. There is still for him some adjustments, not only adjustments for the league but also adjustments for the team because this is the first game he's played with his teammates. Getting to know them and how we compete is the main adjustment for him. I am very positive because he is working very hard and he is a smart and intelligent guy who is very fast to adjust. I hope and expect in the next game we will see even move performance and scoring goals."
On de Leeuw's position on the field
"Michael can play in different positions in the attack. By being so dynamic, he shifts from one position to another in order to find spaces where he can play at his full potential. He's a very dynamic offensive player but at this point we see him playing at the top, as a target even (though) he is not that kind of player. We will look to take advantage of his dynamic and attacking movement in order to create superiority in any part of the field in attack."
On the return of Matt Polster
"He was cleared last week. We wanted to give him more time to prepare for the schedule that we have now in front (of us) and be available one hundred percent. We will count on him for the next games that we have, starting with the game against Sporting Kansas City."
On looking ahead to Sporting Kansas City
"We learn from every game whether we win, lose, or tie. We learn from every game and there is still some adjustments that our team has to do to perform the way we all want, to be a winning team. We learn. We understand and we do adjustments and we work hard to get better and that's how we work and believe. That's the way to move on. Turning to our next game against Kansas City, they're a very hard team and a very difficult team that has a great coach with fantastic performance in the last (few) years. We believe that it's going to be a very tough game. They won yesterday against a very hard opponent, the leader in our Conference, New York City. It says how competitive they are. All of our focus is now to that game. All of our focus on our guys is to recover them, to prepare for the game, to analyze the opponents, and do our best to win. Especially the games we have at home. I think we have to emphasize these are our most important games."
"They play very good as a team. I think they have very good pace. In every line they are very well balanced. They have that tough mentality that we are looking for. We have it too, but the level they have playing together for a long time with a lot of experts in the league is also very important. We are looking forward to become a team like they are. Successful, tough. Playing the winning style that wherever you play, you want to win. That's what we expect now. They are similar in terms of style. We're two similar teams and we will see who wins on Wednesday."
On playing younger players now
"We have to manage the load and minutes during this stretch of games that we have. We want to win all of those games. We will manage that. We will not be able to play all the games as we did so far in the season. We couldn't play with the same eleven but we'll manage that load. We will give minutes to the guys we believe can help us win games. Either they are youngsters, (or) they are veterans, or they are experts in the league. Whoever they are."
On Drew Conner's progress
"We will play with the guys that we believe can give us the performance that we expect and (are) looking for. Drew has been good. Drew is training with everyone else. It's the same thing. Work hard and wait for the opportunity. When the team needs him, everyone has to be ready to respond to the demands of the team and the competition."
On being happy with the performance against TFC and looking ahead
"I think our guys are doing the best we can. We are training hard. We are working hard. We're committed 100% to every game plan that we have. The performance not only depends on you but it also depends on opponents. Different circumstances may change the game. We all make mistakes and we are working on our approach to learn from every situation and get better. We are happy, but as I said nobody is happy with losing. Nobody is happy with our position so we have to work and we have to continue. We have to think positive and keep the spirit that we had in the last couple of weeks after winning two in a row. Believe...that's the key. At some point we will surprise everyone with how well we play and how well we work the game. We have to seek for that for that moment and be consistent and wait for that to happen. Hard work, consistency, and belief."