Fire notebook - Injury update, Johnson's status, Campbell for USMNT, and more

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.

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • fb_avatar

    They need de Leeuw or someone of equal or greater attacking flair to make this season interesting. Any idea what his current salary looks like? They should match what Groningen is offering but for 4 or 5 seasons. A 4 or 5 year contract has to be enticing to a player nearing 30. I know Chicago might shy away from long contracts considering the players that they have been stuck with but he is a proven consistent performer. They did an excellent job identifying him as a target, but they need to get it done.

  • In reply to Carl Miller:

    Maybe Kappelhof needs to make a phone call (or whatever people do these days to stay in touch.) From what I can tell, he's enjoying his time here so far.

    Wouldn't hurt.

  • fb_avatar
    I know that they are looking for more permanent solutions but if they are still in the hunt for another centerback/ defensive mid....Kappelhof's CB partner is available on the free soon. Don't know a thing about him but the chemistry would be there and as captain, you would think hes got talent.

  • On Polster:

    "He's a fantastic gut."

    Either this is direct translation of some old Serbian folk saying or it's a typo. I love it either way.

    Thanks for the info on Khaly Thian. Not sure how excited I'll get about a 22 yo w/ no caps playing in Hungary (albeit for one of their two best clubs).

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Error corrected...."guy"

  • Guys, I just want to take this opportunity to congratulate Rodriguez and Pauno. Sure, we've been in a bit of a slump recently, but don't forget that just three games ago we were tied for first place!!

  • Guillermo, could you ask N-Rod if there is any truth to Accam saying in an interview in Ghana that his potential transfer to Stoke back in winter did not happen only because he could not get a work permit?

  • Why trade Harry and not Sean? There is apparently no difference in the two situations. We had no replacement for Harry but still moved him. Why not move Sean so he can further his career? It's sad to see a player on the bench that is far superior to the person who is playing. We had to give Lampson 7 defenders in order for him to keep a clean sheet. Pauno and Nelson traded away Nyarko and Shipp so they could have a chance at being successful, but they keep Sean to warm the bench? Seeing Sean Johnson warming up Lampson is comical.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I completely agree. It is confusing why they won't apply the same logic used in the Shipp trade to Johnson. Especially with Sean being in a position where you could argue there was more depth than attacking midfield.

  • In reply to AJties:

    SJ is on the market. The difference with Shipp is that they have no offers yet for Sean but i don't expect an expensive back-up goal keeper to stay on the books. Their entire off season is inexplicable. They replaced most of the squad with HG and college players plus the dregs of the free agent players. JJ, Shipp and Nyarko were sold for cash, not players to improve the team. This team just doesn't have the players to compete unless they bring in quality and every draft pick and addition turns out to be exceptional. I expect them to tradeTam for Gam before the window closes or leave it on the table.

  • In reply to Celt:

    Im not completely disagreeing with you, but I have a hard time believing that the only reason SJ is still on the roster is they havent received an offer for him

  • fb_avatar

    Serbian Nico Kranjac (spelling?) formerly of Dynamo Kiev and Tottenham among others signs with New York Cosmos...what VP didn't like or want him? 31 year old attacking mid,,,just asking, when is that Serbian connection going to deliver? Also Joe Cole former Chelsea and England forward signs with Tampa Bay NASL also...what gives...not good enough for the Fire? Also VP needs some media training on how to respond to tough questions..."I don't know" is not going to cut it! We all know you know, but don't want to say anything, but please try to come off as if you know whats going on and not embarrassing yourself. Your thought GR?

  • In reply to Bob Bilocerkowycz:

    Kranjcar could have been signed by any MLS team, but wasn't. Looks like 19 other coaches in MLS didn't like him either. ;-)

    His contract for the Cosmos is only for the spring half of the NASL season. This indicates to me that Kranjcar wants to be free to pursue other opportunities in Europe this summer. And that may very well be why he was not a realistic target for a gig in MLS.

    And BTW, Kranjcar is Croatian.

  • In reply to Bob Bilocerkowycz:

    Kranjcar would have been a decent signing, Cole would be a pass for me. Neither one would have moved the needle much as far as big news, imo.

    The drawn out talks with guys like de Leeuw and even Thian would seem to indicate that they may get neither. It's entirely possible that they'll have no new additions until the July window.

    As far as Paunovic, answering questions in that manner....he typically passes any personnel/transfer/trade related matters to Rodriguez.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Many, many team around the world bring in a large number of new players every offseason. There is really no excuse for the Fire to not have a complete roster 3 weeks into the season, especially as they have traded away several players that would have provided depth without bringing in any replacements. Either Rodriguez and Pauno are more incompetent than we would like to believe or they have intentionally not brought anyone in yet to keep expectations low. It's almost like they have slowed roster additions down on purpose to give more credibility to the idea that this will be a 3 year process and it will take time to be good.

    If several new players were brought in during pre-season like they should have been, expectations would have been higher on Rodriguez and Pauno, and I'm guessing that neither one of them wanted that.

    And I don't buy the argument that they have been trying to bring in players. Again, many, many teams do this every offseason. If your desired player isn't signing, you move on and sign someone else, you don't go into the season with no depth!

  • Is Marko Mitrovic on trial with the Fire?

  • Drew Conner and Patrick Doody have been loaned to Saint Louis FC.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Beat me to the punch. =)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Hey GR, how do salaries work when players are loaned out? Does STL pick up any of their salary when they play there?

  • In reply to Joe Brancato:

    MLS clubs typically pay the salaries of players loaned to USL clubs. There are also no loan fees.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Thanks for the clarity GR.

  • fb_avatar

    GR, who is scouting in Europe for the Fire? Who is identifying guys like de Leeuw and Thian...and the "previous candidates", mid from Sweden, and Polish CB? Are these agents pushing their guys for the MLS, or agents leveraging their guys for better contracts to stay where they are. And what tier of player are these candidates, if Messi and Ronaldo are A+, where on that scale to do guys rate? Are they D's or F,G's or lower? We fans want to know what type of store that we are shopping in. Historically our South American player acquisitions have come the "Goodwill" Store or tier WTF!

  • In reply to Bob Bilocerkowycz:

    Trevor James was the "scout" under the Yallop regime but with the house cleaning last winter, he's also gone. The majority of the scouting seems to be on Rodriguez and the tech staff although it seems they have contacts in different places who recommend players.
    Agents are always peddling their guys for potential moves. Some of the league's player moves come via that route.
    In terms of the level, that's subjective, but it appears by the names that have been brought in and the possibilities that haven't panned out, that the new regime is still shopping with a fixed budget that is somewhere in the middle of the pack in MLS.

  • Weekend picks:

    nyc ne ne
    dc dal dc
    van hou van

    Overall 6-24.

  • Tonight does not make me excited about potentially signing Bedoya...

  • In reply to AJties:

    To be fair, there wasn't much that excited me about that before last night. ;)

  • Picks tonight:

    New York City over New England
    FC Dallas over DC
    Vancouver over Houston

  • I disagree re Bedoya. He is a smart player. He plays best centrally.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Nice player but assuming he'd command DP level have to get a lot more than he would provide for DP money.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Don't disagree with the dollars. How much does he make at Nantes?

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Makes over $500k at Nantes. There were rumors of MLS offers for him in the $1m range. Any deal would also require a $2m or so transfer fee since he's under contract with Nantes for another three years.

  • Guys the only way that Hauptman would be forced to run the team as if he cared is to stop buying the tickets to his miserable games. if you are still interested stay home avoid harlem ave and watch the game on TV. The one positive change that I have noticed is that annoying kelly seems to be gone.

  • In reply to Brokerman:

    Dan Kelly will be back next weekend.

  • I was hoping that some high school job came open for Friday night football in Texas and he took it. He would be perfect.

  • I thought polster played well against Columbia. He went forward well and looked great defensively. He is again starting to improve rather than regress as he started to under Yallop. He has a cannon of a shot that if allowed to use will free up our forwards.

  • I can't decide which is worse: Pauno did indeed judge SJ on 60 minutes of preseason and believes Lampson is a better keeper, or there is another agenda at work with this roster. No other team seems to have the Fire's difficulty in making significant signings, and this without the urgency and need to rebuild a last place team.

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