Veljko Paunovic delivered updates Monday regarding the potential return of one Chicago Fire midfielder and the debut of another.
The Men In Red are set for a trying three-game road trip that kicks off Wednesday at Vancouver Whitecaps FC (9 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago Plus), the club’s first midweek match of 2016 and their first run-in with a team outside the Eastern Conference.
They’ll head into the game without the services of both David Accam -- who is working hard to regain match fitness after a nearly two-month absence from the lineup -- and recently acquired Khaly Thiam, who has yet to obtain a Canadian visa after arriving in the United States last week.
Both are slated to join the Fire in Foxborough, Mass., and could see action in Saturday’s clash with the New England Revolution or the third leg of the trip, a midweek match against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, May 18.
“We are working still on [Accam’s] fitness and we want to take advantage of this possibility to build up his fitness level,” Paunovic said. “[For Thiam], I think his fitness is very good, he’s coming from the [MTK Budapest] season. We also took that in consideration so the first three days we gave him off, we recovered him; he’s also not going to travel to Vancouver so we are taking advantage of that to give him some rest and get him ready for the coming games.”
In addition to being a natural addition to the personality of the Fire locker room, Thiam has also displayed the on-field attributes Paunovic anticipated upon acquiring the Senegalese midfielder.
"His quality is very good on the ball, he’s a guy who likes to have possession and that was something we were lacking. I think he’s going to improve that part of the game. He also likes to score, tries to score, taking shots from distance and he’s attacking the box and everything that we need at this point."
Dutch midfielder John Goossens, who suffered an LCL sprain on April 29, remains sidelined without an official timetable for return beyond the initial 1-4 week estimate. With four matches in 10 days and no shortage of travel in between, the Fire are likely to see contributions from up and down the roster in order to pick up points and gain ground in the table.
“Of course we are taking into consideration [players’] minutes, the load of games in the season so far,” Paunovic said. “It’s a long season and for this trip of course some rotation might happen, but I prefer to talk about it when we are closer to when that happens and when we decide on what and when we are going to rotate.”