Chicago Fire 2:0 Atlanta United FC
Veljko Paunovic, Chicago Fire Head Coach
Thoughts on the match and trying to create chances off the counter
“We obviously planned a couple of scenarios for this game, the one that prevailed was the one for the counter attack. So obviously, with the hot weather and with the situation we had on the field we had to adjust in the first half. We kind of had issues laying with four in the back so we adjusted very well, with Basti dropping in the backline and helping the team so our fullbacks can go wider and close those gaps we had on the flanks. So that helped us a lot to improve our game and we scored a goal after that, and immediately had another opportunity. The game we are used to playing now, it was a game to win three points. We managed well, we were a very mature team this time we can see character that we were looking for a long time. Even in difficult moments of the game, to manage it, to move the ball forward, to slow down the game whenever we needed and then managed to step forward and create opportunities. Very grateful for the effort from the team and also happy to see the support we had from the stands. I think the fans were also very good today.”
On the defensive performance
“It’s always important to keep the clean sheet and to be the team, especially when you play at home, to feel like you’re playing in your fortress and I think we kind of have that feeling and we want to forge it, we want to improve that. We don’t just want to have our fortress when we have play the way we did today, we had to defend, but we want be also the team that pushed the opponents backwards and pushed them into their third and tries to keep them there. We want to be the team that dominates and imposes themselves and the team that wins all the games.”
On the play of Michael de Leeuw
“Michael is so generous in his effort for the team and working for the team and his teammates. At the same time, he’s dangerous, he had opportunities to score in the games before. But when you have that approach and you’re working the way he does and helps the team he must be on the field. On the side where he’s not scoring goals, he’s helping us score goals and helping the team win that also comes. I know he’s a little bit upset about not scoring and I told him to just be patient, it’s going to come, you’re going to surprise yourself when you score two or three goals in one game and say, ‘I have it finally.’ It’s true that that because of the injuries earlier in the season, he missed a couple of game, it’s true that he has a hard time to find his scoring streak but he’s working hard and that’s something that is very important.”
On the play of Matt Lampson
“He is doing very well, he’s doing a good job and staying consistent in his games and the way he plays helps the team. In goalkeeping today, I think he had a good game it was difficult for him to play the way we wanted to play with trying to find the open man when we build out of the back but especially because of the wind, a very strong wind, kind of interrupted a lot of good decisions that he made but consistency and good approach, quality that he’s giving us every game that’s something that we ask and demand and he’s giving that so he’s going to continue.”
On Juninho and Matt Polster
“The good thing about our roster this year is that we have options, we can play systems, we can play different formations and different players and all of them we have one great thing, that they are all on the same page and that everyone knows and accepts that when he has the opportunity to give his best, knows that the opportunity is going to come and he has to be a little patient for the guys who are coming in and out, but for the guys who are playing, know that they have to keep the good performance in their games because the other guys are pushing, so it’s very good for us to have variety in our roster, and we have depth, and where we have to improve is in the back but soccer-wise we are also defending really well, especially at home. Another clean sheet like you said before and the guys are really strong, we look good, we look solid but this is not done like we always say ‘we don’t want to constrain now’ but we need to be smart with managing the rest of the season and the most important is to know that the next game is the most important game.”
If there was any disappointment in the first half
“We’re not disappointed and I don’t see any reason to be disappointed. It was a tough game for us to play against one of the best teams, I always say that because I mean it. I think this is a very talented team, unpredictable, very fast, transitions, they have everything. The thing against a team like this and I said this before the game, it’s going to be the battle for possession and who takes over the possession and they did it and the other team will have to adjust. We adjusted and I think we did well and we were, and as I said at the beginning of the press conference, we were the team that were mature in order to take advantage of the opportunities and convert our opportunities and then manage the game. It was hard, it wasn’t a beautiful game but it was a game to win and we did.”
Michael de Leeuw, Chicago Fire Forward
On the comfort level of the team
"I think we're very comfortable. I think we had five big chances, in the first half I think we had David Accam two times, at the end we had one goal. It was also tough to play, they put high pressure. We didn't play like we always play, easy from the back; we played more long balls. But at the end, it doesn't matter, we have three points. Sometimes you win like that."
On not scoring yet this season
"My role is different now. I'm used to playing from the middle as a striker or as a number 10; now I'm playing more from the right side. I think my role is different now from what I'm used to. Of course, I'm a player who scores, that's what gives me confidence, that's how you grow in a season. At this point, I haven't scored a goal, and sometimes I think 'I haven't scored in fourteen, fifteen games.' Sometimes, that eats inside me. But on the other hand, I know I'm important in other things at this moment. We're playing as a team, we're playing good, everybody is taking his role, and I'm taking, at this point, the role that I'm taking right now."
On adjusting to new positions
"I'm used to being in front of the goal and at this moment, it's not the way I come right now, because I'm on the right side. Like I said, it's a different role, and of course I have to adjust, but I think I'm playing well now, in the beginning I was not playing well. In the end, the goals will come, I know that the goals will come, but the most important thing is that we are winning and that the team is playing good. Your personal things will come."
Johan Kappelhof, Chicago Fire Defender
On the unbeaten streak
"It's due to teamwork that we've achieved being undefeated. The defense helps the front, the forward players do the job, they work hard to chase the ball; it makes it easier on the back. I think we take every opponent serious, 100 percent we're not afraid of anybody. We're keeping the ball, and that's a key point for us. When we keep the ball, we save energy for the attack."
On changes since last playing Atlanta
"We adjusted a little bit. We played deep defensively with five at the back, we released the pressure of their forwards, they are dangerous. We kept the ball, that's what we did better. Last time with the early red card it was hard. It was not a great game from us, we still can do better, but the result is now the most important thing."