CHESTER, Pa. – Veljko Paunovic was excited to return to Talen Energy Stadium, the building where he played his final professional season with the Philadelphia Union in 2011.
And the Chicago Fire head coach hoped that his team would show the same kind of fight and grit that made him a fan favorite in Philly.
So in that respect, at least, he could take a little bit of solace in Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Union, in which a furious Chicago rally fell just short.
“We said that when I came to Chicago that we will fight every single game until the end – and that’s what we proved,” Paunovic said. “Of course that’s not enough. We’ve got to get better. We’ve got to win games. Overall, we have to improve.”
There certainly are many improvements the last-place Fire have to make, as they’ve now gone 32 games without a road win dating back to the 2014 season.
But were they unlucky not to at least get something out of Wednesday’s game, where they opened the scoring on a David Accam goal in the second minute, scored twice more in the second half and allowed the Union to score mostly on rebound attempts and bad deflections?
“I don’t believe in being unlucky,” Paunovic said. “I just believe in performance and I think that in those situations, we could react better for sure.”
Khaly Thiam, who scored the third goal for Chicago to put a huge scare into Philly, followed his coach’s lead and praised his team’s “character” after the game. Razvan Cocis, who scored the second, agreed with that sentiment, too.
“The positive is, in this one and I think the last game in the [US Open] Cup, I think we can come back,” Cocis said. “Even though today was not a comeback, just 4-1 to 4-3, we have that potential.”
His own team's fight and shortcomings aside, Paunovic also made sure to praise the Union’s efficiency to go up by three goals in the second half before adding that it was a treat to return to Philly.
“Of course there is always emotion,” he said. “I had a very good time here and the people treated me well. So I want to thank them for that.”
Dave Zeitlin is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com