The Fire will have a chance to avenge their worst loss of the season against DC United on Friday night at Toyota Park. They can stay ahead of Columbus at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a win as the Crew travels to Orlando City.
Veljko Paunovic talked about the rematch and a few other topics during his weekly conference call on Tuesday afternoon. Here are the highlights:
Paunovic on Michael de Leeuw
"He is very important to how we improve our offensive side. When we did the scouting and analyzed his style of play and talent we saw very quickly that he's very good moving in the box and moving off the ball and of course, converting opportunities. That's why we believe that he's going to be a great fit for us, which he confirms with great motivation and great attitude that he has in every single game. Putting all of himself in every single play, in every single game and also helping others, which is something that we demand. Do your job and then help others do their job. So far we are very happy with his performance. He is very generous with his effort in supporting teammates and in the locker room he's honest and very direct. He has that kind of mentality that we are looking for for our team, which is a winning mentality and always doing your best."
On the DC rematch
"I think the game we played in DC wasn't us. I said that before and I think now it's a great opportunity to prove what we say. Now we have the opportunity to show that it was just an accident of the season and the overall situation and circumstances that we were in at that point. I think now we have a great opportunity to change that and especially playing after just a couple of weeks your feelings and your sensations are still fresh. I think from the motivational side of the team, now we have to perform and show a better face. Show a better performance. On the individual side, I think everyone has to motivate perhaps (themselves). If I were a defender, I would motivate myself by just saying Mullins cannot score more goals or the other guys, Acosta can't just dribble so easily and go through. I'm going to win my individual war on the field and then I'm going to put myself in order for the plan of the team in order win the game. That's something that is very important to come individually from each player. Of course, the staff will motivate the team as a whole but individually too."
On David Arshakyan's status
"The approach for David is very progressive. We know that he will need to adjust for this league. We know we can evaluate him through every training, every week and then give him some opportunities in the games. We don't want to overwhelm him, which means that at this point in the season where the team has progressed so far, I think he needs a certain and the right amount of minutes in a row in the games and also in the week. The approach for him will be in the long term, where we expect from the opportunities that he will have in the game that he will play that he can give us, with his size, he can be a target when we have to find a guy up in front where we can play the long ball and he can keep it. His quality with his feet can be great. He's very good on the ball. In the box, not only through the opportunities in crosses that we will make from the flanks, but also on set pieces. He's a big guy. He loves to play in the box, he has that ratio of scoring goals kind of like Michael de Leeuw and that's very important. He's another player that will add to our attack in more diversity and also more goals."
On Sean Johnson's gaffe against Toronto
"We are happy with the improvements that Sean had in the last game especially, like covering the back. That situation came after a great and successful action that he performed by covering actually the back that I'm talking about, which is very important as a part of the game for our team. There is nothing to say. We just move forward. We have to understand that there are mistakes that we all learn from. The only thing about the mistake actually would be that if we learned how fast we recover and what was our response. I would say that's all we're looking for from this kind of situation. As I said after the game, everyone makes mistakes. It's just how we respond, how fast we recovered, and what we learned. That's it and we move forward."
On the play of the Polster and Cocis combo in midfield
"During the whole year we were looking for the right fit in our midfield and I think in the last games both of them are performing very well. It's a constant work up and a constant improvement for the team and for every single individual on our roster. When they play together they understand and they've known each other for a long time now, a couple of seasons and you could see that. They perform and the team performs with a more calm way of playing, more confident. That is something that has helped. In some games there are some adjustments that we have to do and sometimes we have to do some changes. In the last game we were down 2-0 and had to put more guys up in front and we made some adjustments and substitutions. I will always like to say that all of our guys are important for us. We all work on them and we believe that every time the team needs them they have to be ready and that means that you have train every single session the best you can be. Get ready. Deliver everything that you have to the team and the decisions we have to make regarding our game plan and the next opponent will decide who is going to play."
On younger players getting a shot when Saint Louis FC's season ends
"It will always depend on performance. The performance and attitude that they have. Right now (players that) we have that (are) healthy so it's going to be tougher for them to win a spot. Doody right now is in Saint Louis and as I can see in the games he is doing well. Drew (Conner) was recalled earlier this season so he's working with us. He's working tough. They are on their own path to earn the spot in the first team. We can't say or promise or predict the future but like everyone else, they are important for the team and their performance, attitude, and how they develop will determine how much time they will have on the team and in the games."
- MLS announced the rules for the next expansion draft this winter. Atlanta United and Minnesota United FC will participate in a five round draft in which existing teams can only lose one player from their squad. Teams can protect 11 players with some caveats.
- FC Dallas defeated New England 4-2 to win the 2016 US Open Cup title. That win puts the Fire at the top of the list as the team with the longest active trophy-less drought in MLS. Nine and counting.