The Fire can avoid becoming the first team in MLS history to finish at the bottom of the league standings if they can defeat Toronto FC and get help from Houston. The Dynamo currently sit two points ahead of Chicago with a trip to Colorado looming this weekend.
Coach Veljko Paunovic cited that as motivation for the final match of the year during his conference call with media on Wednesday afternoon. Here are the highlights of the call:
Paunovic on facing Toronto FC
"I think it's another chance for everyone to try to do their best and keep the mentality that we forged this year playing every game the best we can to win. On the other side, I also think that's professional. I think we owe to our job, to our fans, to our club, and to everyone in the league professional(ism) and we have to play the game the best we can. We are preparing for that and we are looking to see if we'll be in that level which is necessary to play professionally in the league. That's very important for me. On the other end there is another motivation which (moves) me even more. We have the opportunity, if we win the game to win the second game on the road this year but at the same time also it doesn't depend only on us. We have the opportunity to escape from the bottom on the overall standings by winning in Toronto. All these things together are enough reasons to head to Toronto with the best possible motivation and the goal to win the game."
"It's very important in every game to be the best you can be. It's all about that. It doesn't matter - everything that's behind we cannot change but we can just act in the present moment. It's going to be important for us to have two wins in a row, which we didn't have the whole year. All these things to me, are very important."
On containing Giovinco
"We have to do our best. We have to be on top of our performance to play against a team like Toronto and players like Giovinco and other guys. They have a very good team. They are (near) the top of the conference. Very competitive team. I think we have to play well as a team. We have to stick to our game plan. We have to individually be motivated to play against a very good team. With all that said, I think we have to do a very good preparation this week. After two days off, (Wednesday) we trained and had a good session. The guys are in the right mood. We set the goals for this week and the ultimate goal is to perform well and win the game in Toronto. We'll do our best to be on the top of our performance for that game."
On team injury status
"In (Wednesday's) session we had everyone available. We a had a little setback on Razvan (Cocis). We'll see if he is going to be okay tomorrow. He got knocked in one of the drills we were doing. We'll see how he feels for tomorrow. Everyone else so far is good."
On David Arshakyan's progress
"We had a a plan for him to prepare him to go through this part of the season, the end of the season. Our goal for him was to prepare him for the next season. Anywhere and anytime we could make him play and get some minutes in the league would be very important. I think we had to accelerate a little bit because of the circumstances we had, injuries and other things. On the performance side we have to accelerate that process on him. I think he's adjusting well. I think for sure, the preseason and everything that he's had will be helpful for him. Also we have one more game left which may be another opportunity, if he earns the spot, for him to adjust to the league, to get the experience and to perform well. We are not just here to give minutes and experience. We are here for the guys that earn the spots on the roster to play in that game and we also expect (them) to perform."
On avoiding the bottom of the table
"It's important to give the best of yourself in every training and in every game. I think basically, we've done well in those respects. Motivation, identity, and mentality have gotten better. Lamentably, we can't say that the results have been there but I think for us having this last game and last opportunity to escape the bottom and improve our standing this season is a good opportunity. It's the last thing we have. We'll play like we're going to win a championship and that's how we'll prepare. It will help us now but I'm also talking about the future as well."
On carryover to next year
"For us, this game is a great opportunity to forge that mentality. Having this opportunity to play against Toronto, where we have our goal to escape from the bottom we have to understand that this game is our Final, which it is. It's a Final. We have an opportunity to just get a little bit better. More than that, for me in the long term it's important that we show to ourselves and show everyone that we are capable of achieving our small goals. On the long term, forging that mentality in soccer will give us the reward. For the guys who are struggling the whole season, who never gave up and in the future want to be successful - I think you have to give a lot before you become successful and you have to forge those values in the team and yourself. We have to be professional until the end, but more than that we have to be the best we can be in every opportunity that is granted to us. This game for me is more than anything pride in the opportunity of being the best we can be and the opportunity to put in place something in the long term reward that we are looking for, which is to be successful in the league."
On player motivation
"I'm really proud of all our guys. There hasn't been any session that they didn't understand and worked hard. All these things said to (media), I pretty much say the same, with even more emphasis on the important things on the team and values. Every week we have our goals and motivation is high. Everyone worked very hard and we never had any issues with that. That's why I'll give all the credit to the guys, who I think are very good professionals. They are very good people and most important of everything, they are willing to put in everything for our club and their profession to be the best they can be. I can say from the standpoint of the results, it was difficult for us but at least what we said that we need for our team it has been always present. Always in every session, (they had) that motivation and commitment to be the best we can be."
- David Accam spoke to the Daily Herald yesterday about his contract status. "We have been talking about my future for a long time, and I am frustrated for it not to be resolved," Accam said. " ... I want it to be resolved as soon as possible. That's what I told them, I want to stay here. I want to be back. So we need to sit down and talk and see where the future is." Sources indicate Accam is looking for a significant increase on his guaranteed 2016 salary of $770,937.50.
- The Fire have been named the 2016 Beyond Sport Team of the Year for their commitment to community service. They beat out Arsenal, Barcelona, the Detroit Pistons, and San Francisco Giants for the honor.