The Fire have three wins from three scheduled preseason games so far but there’s still work to do on and off the pitch. Dutch midfielder John Goossens has had an impressive two week run. His wonder goal on Thursday night against the University of Portland and the cool finish against Vancouver followed a good run versus Philadelphia the week before.
During his weekly press conference call, Veljko Paunovic acknowledged his work but noted that there was no update on getting him signed at the moment. “He performed very good. What I can say right now, at this point, his status as a trialist is still the same. If something changes about him, we will let you know,” said Paunovic.
Some roster decisions will be made this week with several spots still open. “This week we can make some decisions on the roster and the trialists that we have,” said Paunovic. “We want to work building our team. Building with guys on our roster. We have some guys and trialists, we’ll try them for different positions in the games to come so we can have a better (idea) of what they can bring to our team.”
There will be some players loaned to Saint Louis FC but the decision on who, and how many hasn’t been made yet.
New CB pairing
Johan Kappelhof and Joao Meira saw their first game action together as the starting centerbacks. There were some struggles but Paunovic said he was satisfied with their outing overall. “We are happy with their performance, being the first game playing together. Against a very good opponent, I think they performed very well. They communicated very well. All of our team, all of our lines, we still have to improve the performance and understanding and our education of what we want to do.”
Right back Rodrigo Ramos joined up with the team this weekend and starting training on Monday. Expect to see him start at least one of the two remaining preseason games. “Today is going to be the first session for him with the whole team. He’s adapting to a new environment and we will see the level of his fitness,” said Paunovic of the young Brazilian.
Caution with Accam
David Accam did not play against Vancouver due to illness. He did not train on Saturday and it seems the Fire will be cautious with his playing time ahead of the season opener on March 6. “He had some issues and we didn’t want to make push him hard for this game even though he is recovered now. We working on his fitness, and he is doing great. He’s very engaged in this preseason and we have a special approach for him knowing that last year he had issues on turf in this tournament. We are working on him,” said Paunovic.
“He’s in consideration (for the last two games). It’s not that we are reserving, but as I said he had some issues that are not coming from the turf. We want to keep him and recovering well. Our goal is to prepare well for the season. The preseason is something that we have to manage.”
The new system is showing some early results, with the Fire looking to have more purpose than they did for most of last season. High pressure disrupted Vancouver early in the game and resulted in Goosens’ strike to give Chicago the lead.
“I’m very with the performance of the team. I always say we have to, and we can, do better. We have to improve but the team is understanding better with how we want to play, and they’re convinced that they can do it. They did it yesterday in the game. There were a couple of times we had sets of two or three minutes of the high pressing and we scored one goal. We scored the first goal and we pushed Vancouver a couple of times into an uncomfortable zone with the possession they tried to have.”
Paunovic said that the team is still working on fitness and endurance and it was still too early to decide on starters for the opening game.
Brandon Vincent will challenge for a starting spot at left back but Paunovic wasn’t conceding that the position is his just yet. “He came very good from the national team camp. He’s pushing himself hard. He’s got some adjustments to understand some concepts but so far he is doing very good and we are very happy with him,” said Paunovic.
“So far, everyone has to earn his spot on the roster at this point in the preseason. Our expectations for all our players is to be available, healthy, prepared, motivated, so that when the team needs them they will ready to play. For him it’s the same thing as for everyone.”
Polster takes a stand
Matt Polster charged into Vancouver players late in the game as a challenge knocked goalkeeper Matt Lampson into the goal. Paunovic liked the fact that Polster was standing up for teammates but wants him to exercise caution going forward. “I think he’s a very energetic and very good teammate. He wanted to defend. He reacted. We don’t want that to happen but I can understand perfect. He’s a young player and he understands that the situation was very dangerous for our goalkeeper. I truly understand what happened. We believe that we have to manage with those situations, to be more calm but at the same time I think that it’s good to make others understand that we are guys who care for each other and good teammates. We will always defend our goal like we did in that play. We will always defend one another when someone, in this case someone’s health was almost in danger. We understand that perfectly.”