Paunovic: “I’m confident we will reach our goal”

Veljko Paunovic

There were positives to be gleaned from the Chicago Fire’s 1-1 draw Saturday vs. D.C. United -- another stout defensive performance and well-crafted set-piece goal, among them -- but head coach Veljko Paunovic was honest in his assessment of his side’s overall performance Monday afternoon.

“We are still a team who has to improve, who is building the style and as I said before it’s going to take time,” he said. “I’m very honest what we are doing and where we are in this process, and right now we are not where we want to be. It’s a long way to go still but I’m very confident we will reach our goal, which is to be a winning team and in the end be a team that will fight for the playoffs.”

Fire 1:1 D.C. United | Matchcenter Stats & OPTA Chalkboard

On Saturday, Paunovic was without the services of two key cogs in his efforts to build a more possession-oriented team, with Matt Polster (calf) and John Goossens (knee) missing from the midfield. Indication out of camp Monday was that both are expected to be cleared by the end of the week and available for selection next week -- positive news ahead of a three-game, transcontinental road trip with two matches on artificial turf that will test the depth and durability of the Men In Red.

“We will need all players, they should all be available, they should all fight for their spots and when the time comes and they have the opportunity to play they have to be ready,” Paunovic said Monday. “This is our approach, it was and it will always be. I will just say, the players who play did a great job, I think one point, even though we had the lead in the first half, one point is positive.”

Indeed, the midfield triangle of Michael Stephens, Razvan Cocis and Arturo Alvarez ably conducted the action amid the blowing wind and rain that dominated the day. Still, with a total of three shots on goal in their last three outings and no more than two in a match since the season-opener, Paunovic is eager to see his team regain the momentum he felt was stunted during its 0-0 draw at NYCFC on April 10.

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“We were in a very good momentum before the game in New York and we lost that momentum to get to the next level,” he said. “By next level I mean winning the game, controlling the game, being smart in managing the situations and issues that may happen in every game. Now we are building that momentum as we want it to come in the next game. We are a young team, we’re a team that still has a long way to go to be very efficient, but we are all eager to do that, work hard, and we believe we are on a good path.”

David Accam Continues Road Back
The appearance of David Accam on Saturday’s team sheet caught many by surprise, but Paunovic admitted Monday that the Ghanaian was “never planning to play” in the match. Instead, with Goossens a late scratch from the lineup, Accam took advantage of the open spot on the bench to take the next step in re-integrating himself into the matchday routine.

“We wanted him to be back, to be in the same environment in preparation for the game, being with his teammates on the bench,” Paunovic said. “In the next 10 days we want to improve David’s fitness, you have to understand he was out more than six weeks. It doesn’t matter how hard you work on the side, it’s a completely different thing from having a rhythm of a game, the pace of the game and the sense of the game. As soon as he progresses well, and he will, we will manage his minutes, and we believe we can have him for the final two games of this month, at least