The Chicago Fire found a way to win without David Accam Saturday against Philadelphia.
That task will be much harder Sunday in New York.
On a short field, the speedy Ghanaian could prove to be a difference maker, but Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said there is no certainty Accam would be ready for Sunday's rematch with Manchester City Lite. Paunovic did say Accam was in the "final phases" of his recovery, so not all hope is lost. While the Saturday win was pleasant, the team desperately needs Accam back.
Paunovic gave plenty of thoughts on numerous topics including the following:
- Paunovic said the team prepares differently depending on the opponent, but they always aim to win, even on the road. Well, the Fire have not won a road match in their last 26 attempts. If they fail to win in New York, it will tie the MLS record for the longest road winless streak.
- Paunovic seemed a little extra motivated to win Sunday's match against New York. He specifically said the club's "honor was hurt" when they dropped a 4-3 match to New York in the home opener. It seems Paunovic wants this one just a little more and the first win probably is giving him that edge of confidence.
- Speaking of New York, they have a really stupid field. It's way too small, but the Fire should be ready. Paunovic said the team will practice all week on the smaller dimensions.
- Early in his tenure, Paunovic has shown a knack for mixing up lineups. He said everyone still has to earn their role, including Mikey Stephens, who had a decent game Saturday. Paunovic would not commit to Stephens starting Sunday, or anyone really. I'm OK with that strategy generally, but there still does need to be some chemistry developed among players.
- An example of the player maneuvering was evident Saturday with Razvan Cocis playing the No. 10 role. In post-game interviews, Cocis talked about his comfort in that role from earlier days in his career and Paunovic echoed those sentiments Monday. Paunovic said he was happy with the performance and could see Paunovic lining up in that spot again in the future. I'm a Cocis fan and I am all fine and good with him playing, but as a No. 10, it shows the lack of depth of the club has built since the Harry Shipp trade.
- Matt Polster has played a crap ton of games recently and it may have shown a little Saturday as he was committing a bit more shirt tugging than usual. Paunovic said the recovery and reintegration is going well, so I still expect to see him Sunday. Perhaps a 70 minute shift as opposed to 90 might be in order.
- Despite losing their first game against New York City FC, the Fire did a good job of keeping David Villa relatively quiet. Paunovic said the strategy would still be to deny the deliveries to Villa and help out if he does get the ball, bringing on perhaps a double team. It's all fine and good to shut down Villa, but Thomas McNamara and the speed of Khiry Shelton can still be a problem. Hopefully the team has answers for that.
Outside of the conference call, the Fire made some news with the election of Johan Kappelhof to the MLS Team of the Week. With five clearances, three interceptions and an 83 percent passing accuracy, the Dutch defender was deemed one of the best center backs of the week.
Kappelhof did have a strong performance, but I still side with the SBI Rookie of the Week Jonathan Campbell. Campbell recorded three interceptions along with an 82 percent passing percentage to go along with a massive blocked shot in the first half that maintained the clean sheet.
The University of North Carolina product has been nothing short of a sweet surprise this season.
Stay tuned for any updates on Accam as well as some potential signings coming down the pipe.