With MLS' secondary transfer window closing one week from today on August 3, the Fire are still looking for help in and outside of the league but nothing appears to be imminent. During his weekly conference call, Veljko Paunovic once again declined to engage in any talk of transfers or even identify which area of the team he would like to see reinforced.
"I appreciate that question but our policy from the beginning of the preseason (is), we'll just talk about things that we are doing once they are done," said Paunovic. "Nelson (Rodriguez) is someone who addresses that very well and I will appreciate if we can keep it the same way. We are happy with the guys that we have on our roster and me as a coach, and my staff, we are working for all of them to prepare them and to give them all that we know in order so that they can be competitive and work hard for the team. We give them all the tools necessary in order to be competitive. We are very focused on our guys."
The remainder of the discussion focused on the New York Red Bulls and a chance for the Fire to show where they stand against what he called, one of the best teams in the league.
Here's the recap:
Paunovic on the upcoming match
"After two days off, we wanted to guys to rest after the long stretch of important games that we had behind (us). Some of them were successful, like the games at home. The other ones, like the last game was a little disappointing although it was a very tough loss. The reason for that is that it was very close. I think the performance was appropriate and very close to finally breaking that negative record that we have on the road. (I'm) disappointed with the last game but the performance was good. After two days we are looking ahead to the next game against one of the best teams in the league. In my opinion, I would say performance-wise the best. The style that they play is fantastic. I think they have very, very good players. I think it's going to be tough. They are in a good mood after winning the derby at home against New York City FC. They are playing a good game, winning, and having a great performance and style. It's going to be tough for us, but at the same time knowing at home we are a strong team. We're becoming a strong team and we also play tough. For us, it's going to be very exciting to play against New York and I think all our fans will see an exciting game that we've been looking for in our past matches. I think it's going to be a fantastic game for everyone. We will prepare in order that we can play against the high press that they do and also we have to manage the spaces behind the defensive line (that) they leave open. We will work in that."
On the team injury status
"Almost all our guys are coming back, except Razvan (Cocis). He 's not full-go. He has to work contact for tomorrow too. (Joey) Calistri participated today in part of training so they're all close to being full-go. There are minor issues but everyone else is fine."
More on NYRB
"It's a great challenge for us. It's the game that we're all looking forward. It's going to be a Champion's League game, for us at least. They are a fantastic team and we look forward to learning a lot. We have to push ourselves further if we want to win this game. We really want to win this game because it's important for us. It's important to stay strong at home and for our fans (to see) that we can compete against one of the best teams in the league on our field. We expect a great atmosphere and it's going to be even better than the last game. We appreciate all the fans have been through the last couple of months when everything was tough for us and they were supporting us. I think we are looking ahead to this game as a game that we will actually have a great opportunity to step up and become more competitive and even come back to the quest for playing in the playoffs this year."
On any positives he sees in the team
"I think that fitness-wise, we run better. We're very competitive, especially playing at home. I think we create many chances. We are committed to our style now, which is being tough. Our identity is being a tough team at home. A team that fights until the end of the game to win the game. We have that positive result for us, we try to defend it. All these kinds of things are very positive for us. I think we improved overall, especially with the addition of Michael de Leeuw, we improved in our performance in the attack. Also it was very important for me to see in the last game in New England, that we were very, very close to winning. I'm not saying to tie the game. We were close to winning. If we scored in the opportunities we had, (or) scored one goal we would win that game. It was a learning experience for us. We finally had that feeling that we could win on the road and we're just going to build and improve on that. All these kinds of things are very positive for me. I think it's very important for us to keep all our guys healthy and we will manage the load this week in preparation in order to be very competitive on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls."
On NYRB as a gauge for the Fire's progress
"Every game is a test, but this game especially more. The timing for us is now. It's a must-win game. Having all of these positive things that I mentioned on our side is a great opportunity for us. Win and engage in the quest for the playoffs."
On the leadership of Johan Kappelhof
"We appreciate Johan's leadership on the field. He is a good example and he's has a great attitude. On the field, he is influencing all others, especially young players and young players playing next to him like Jonathan Campbell. We've noticed that and we know that he is experienced and has great athleticism and also very good touch on the ball. He's very comfortable with the ball in that helps in the phase of preparation in the attack. We are very, very happy with him. He is a guy that communicates the proper amount of information with the staff and with teammates. He's very efficient in that. We know when Johan says he's tired, he's tired and when he says he's good, he's good. That's very important for us and we can build our relationships with communication."
On Brandon Vincent's possible all-star playing time
"It's a great achievement. We're very happy for him to be there. It's going to help him having that experience to learn from more experienced guys. I spoke to Dominic (Kinnear), I met with him in San Jose when I went for some meetings and I spoke briefly but I didn't want to influence him because I know he's an experienced coach. Whatever minutes that he can get is going to be helpful for him, and for us to get his overall performance and (more) experience to be come a good player that we are all looking for."