David Accam won’t be participating in upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers due to a knee sprain but Veljko Paunovic and the Fire are hopeful that he will be ready for the team’s next match against the Union on April 2. Paunovic provided and update on his status during his weekly media conference call. “Hopefully he will be ready for the next game against Philly. We have to see how he improves day by day. He’s very positive that he can make it, so we believe that he will be ready,” he told reporters on Monday afternoon.
Two other players are set to return from what appears to be minor injuries as well.
“Goossens had hamstring soreness. Today he feels better and we believe that in the next couple of days he will join the rest of the group, so it’s not that serious as we expected it to be for more days. There was also Arturo Alvarez, who has some soreness. The same things as Goossens but he will be fine in the next couple of days,” said Paunovic.
Here are the other topics covered:
On Sean Johnson’s situation
“He’s handling that very good. He’s a very good guy. He works hard and he’s someone that always helps teammates. I can only say that how he handles (sitting), we appreciate it. He’s a really, really good teammate and also a good player. From my point of view, I perfectly understand what he’s going through because I have been though that. I understand and I know that every player wants to play. The situation with him is the same situation it may be with other guys who are not starting. This year you could see that we really count on everyone. As soon as the team needs the guys in a game, like in the last game we had two players that didn’t play this year like Nick LaBrocca and Mikey Stephens, and they were there so we count on everyone. It’s patience and hard work that we need to have. That’s a very important value which is trust and faith that in some point you and everyone can help the team.”
“I spoke to Sean before the first game and I spoke every day to him. I spoke with every player. I try to speak, especially with the guys who are not playing and see how they feel. Everything is transparent with us. I don’t think that we have to speak when there is nothing to say but we care about them, we give them support and we understand that. The only thing that we can say is that we are there to help and we need everyone. The thing is that he and everyone else has to give their best and earn their spots and if they are not starting be ready to give support to the team when the team needs it.”
On whether or not the Fire are looking to trade Johnson
“I don’t know anything about it.”
On whether or not Johnson has asked for a trade
“You have to ask him but so far I don’t know anything about it.”
On missing starters due to injury
“We always play the guys that we need to win the games. We never complain because we lack someone. We need guys 100% in every game and this is what we are doing. We always believe that the guys who are starting and the guys who are coming from the bench are ready to give their best in order to win.”
On the lack of possession and needed improvement
To train on that and work on that. Tactically, we have to recognize those situations in a game. What we have to take advantage of the width that we create with the system and the width of the field. Our fullbacks need to go a little bit higher and from the opponents end we have to be more patient with the ball. That will be tactically what we have to improve in the game and that’s what we are working on. We will talk on that during these two weeks. Personally, I value very much, the possession. I think that every team that doesn’t control that is missing something very important. We will work on that. It’s a process. We’ll go back to my speech after the game. We built that defense, that now is solid, and we can now progress in parts which are important too like possession and finishing in the last third.”
On his frustration over lack of offense in last two matches
“I’m not frustrated but I will say that I want that to be better. I want that to be better and guys know that. I told them and we spoke about it. They know that. The guys are doing so good and they are so committed to improve and work on the concepts that we are bringing this year, which takes time and process and everything that I already said. I can’t complain about it. I appreciate all the effort that the guys are giving for the team to be better. I will tell you something…we will be successful. We have a great group of guys. Great talent and we have to stick to our plan and work, and work, and work. I’m very satisfied with our guys.”
On the system and patience
“Everything has to come from patience. It has to come from me and that’s what I’m trying to provide. I’m giving that because I truly believe in this group and truly believe in our team. I demand, but I am not impatient. I know that it’s going to take time but I’m going to demand, and I’m going to ask, and I’m going to support. This is first what I am doing with our staff and I want from our staff also to transmit that same attitude to the group and to the team because we all work together. The staff is doing a great job and that goes to the team and to the players and they can see that. I appreciate all the effort that everyone is doing. Patience comes from me. That support and trust and on the other side demanding. We will demand, we will ask, and we will work to be better.”
On Rodrigo Ramos at right back
“I’m happy with the performance of Rodrigo. With the first game we believe that his adaptation is done for us. We can see that he is ready to play and now he has to compete for the spot like everyone else. In these two weeks he has to improve. He is very good. His quality is coming without the ball. Sometimes he carries the ball too much and that makes him lose a lot of energy. We have to work on that. He knows that. We told him and he’s a really great kid. Very talented. On the other side, he has to earn it. He can play as a right back. He can play in different systems. In the last system we played 3-5-2 but he can also be very useful in systems like 4-3-3 or 3-4-3.”
On Jonathan Campbell’s play
“I’m very happy with Jonathan. I think he is doing his own adaptation to the league. He’s only played a few games and it’s amazing how well he’s handling this first year as a rookie. I truly believe that he can be, not only a very good player for Chicago Fire and we all work on that, but also for the National Team. I think that he has that capacity to become a great player for this country but he knows, and we know, that we have to stay firmly on the ground and work hard.
On the 3-5-2 system and three CBs starting
“I learned that system from great coaches and great teams like Juventus. Van Gaal, when he was the coach in Barcelona and in Manchester United he started with that system too. The system doesn’t make the game. Players do. They do it. It’s something that we have to understand in our system. Why we switched to that system because we have a lot of rookies this year starting and a lot of players who are not experienced with the league. Even the guys that are experienced, the guys that are coming from abroad, they will need adaptation and adjustment to what the league is demanding. That’s give us (a chance) at being more solid in the back defensively. It gives more support to each other. We’re close to each other and from that point we can build our game and our style. As I said when I came here. we have to be adaptable and at this point, this is what we are doing. From the point of view of where we improved, we improved a lot defensively. We also improved our building out of the back. We are now more comfortable with three centerbacks to build out of the back and get to that middle zone or the second third of the field. We struggle to transfer that possession to the final third and be more dangerous to create and then convert those opportunities that we are looking for. That’s what the system with increased centerbacks provides us so far. At some point, if the team needs it and that’s the best for the team in order to win, we will switch.”
On Matt Polster’s development
“I think Matt is also a great potential as a player. As a human being, he is a great, great kid. He wants to improve. He’s constantly asking after every game, even after every session, what he can do better. As a staff we talk to him and patiently he will transfer that into games and transfer that into practice and work on that. He’s a fantastic guy. Now he’s with the National Team. After three months working together, I think he’s going to give them some solid improvement in building out of the back and being a reference in midfield where everything defensively and offensively should start from him. I believed he matured in the (last) three months. In three months a young player can mature. It’s only three months but he is working very hard be successful and he wants the best for the team.
On a young roster
“I’m very happy with working with such a young group and a lot of young players and rookies. For me, that is something very exciting because I can see how they improve. I can see that will to become better, not only Matt, but Brandon Vincent, and players like Alex Morrell, Collin Fernandez, all those young guys see how much we want to deliver to them and give them the tools to become better and be successful and also very competitive for our team and for this league. Working for me this way is something that doesn’t have a price. That’s what I always wanted to do and also we want to compete. My point is we have to reach that level as soon as possible because this league is very competitive. We want to be successful and competitive.
- We reported last week that the Fire were close to adding a central midfielder. That player has been identified as Senegalese box-to-box midfielder Khaly Thiam. He is currently playing for MTK Budapest FC in the Hungarian first division.
- There is nothing new to report on the pursuit of Michael de Leeuw at the moment. He returned to FC Groningen’s starting line up in a 3-0 loss this weekend after not starting the two previous matches. Dutch teams have until April 1 to retain players whose contracts expire in June. He is one of those players but Groningen has now reportedly tabled an offer for a two year extension that he is considering.