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Pauno on the MLS All-Star Game: “You have to be at your best”

The Fire head coach talks about what the ASG means to the players— and himself

MLS: MLS All-Star-Joint Team Press Conference Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic has a message for the MLS All-Star Team: don’t blow this off.

Per established practice as manager of the MLS franchise in the ASG host city, Pauno will serve as head coach for the All-Star Team this year. He’ll lead out the league’s Best XI against Real Madrid tomorrow night at Soldier Field. His squad will include four Fire players: captain Dax McCarty, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic, and Johan Kappelhof.

At the team’s first practice yesterday at UIC, Pauno said that it’s important for the AST to take this game seriously— while also having fun.

“I think we need to enjoy in this moment, but on the other hand in soccer you cannot make the joke from these types of games. You need to go hard, you need to give your maximum, this is our work and also because of our fans who will come in the stadium. On one hand you need to enjoy but on the other hand you need play your best and to try to win this game. [...] There are no exhibitions, no friendly games, we always compete and the first thing we are competing with is ourselves. When you’re on the field and you feel the crowd, you feel you’re actually engaged 100 percent and you know you have to perform, you have to be at your best.”

Both the MLS All-Stars and Real Madrid held an open practice earlier today at Soldier Field. Afterward, Pauno joined McCarty and Schweinsteiger for a press conference. You can watch the whole thing below. (Skip to about 8:51.)