David Accam on being left off MLS All-Star roster: 'I’m disappointed my coach ignored me'


David Accam on being left off MLS All-Star roster: 'I’m disappointed my coach ignored me'

Players take being an All-Star snub differently, but there’s an added level of awkwardness when the person selecting a chunk of the roster was your own coach.

That’s the situation Chicago Fire winger David Accam and coach Veljko Paunovic find themselves in. As coach of the host team and therefore coach of the MLS All-Stars, Paunovic had to pick 11 players to fill out the roster after the Fan XI vote added the first selections.

While Paunovic did select midfielder Dax McCarty and defender Johan Kappelhof to join Fire teammates Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic, he did not pick Accam. Accam has 11 goals and seven assists, among the league leaders in both categories, and is not happy about being left off.

“I am disappointed because I think I played really well, especially coming from your own coach, it makes it even worse,” Accam said after training on Tuesday. “Personally, I know I’m doing well. I’ve scored 11 goals, seven assists this season. That is the pride I have. I’m doing well and I know I’m doing well even though I’m disappointed my coach ignored me, but I’ll still keep going.”

Accam made his disappointment somewhat public by retweeting a pair of tweets from former teammate Mike Magee and fellow Ghanaian Emmanuel Boateng of the LA Galaxy saying he was a snub. He did talk with Paunovic about being left off the All-Star team.

“We spoke after it came out, but that’s between me and him,” Accam said. “Whether I agree or not, that’s his decision.”

Last year, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said the team was in contract extension talks with Accam, but those ended without an agreement being reached. Earlier this year, Rodriguez said they had decided to postpone further extension talks until after this season ends. That remains the case.

“We prefer not to have player negotiations during the year in general,” Rodriguez said on Friday. “I believe it’s human nature for those things to end up being a distraction, even if you’re not doing it directly to the player, you’re doing it to his representative. That would still be our preference. There are times when you move away from that, something pops up or something becomes easy or logical, but David is under contract, we have an option for him for next year and our preference is for him to remain with us.”

Rodriguez said it is a “pretty regular occurrence during the MLS windows” that offers come in for Accam. The most recent rumor was a reported bid from French Ligue 1 club Guingamp coming in at 2.5 million Euros.

With persistent rumors and Accam’s previously stated desire to play in Europe again, Accam fueled the fire by retweeting a mention that MLS should sell good players.

Further speculation of tension cropped up when Accam didn’t start last Saturday’s match in New York, the first after a break and after the All-Star roster was announced, despite not having an injury. Accam came off the bench at halftime and scored the Fire’s only goal in a 2-1 loss.

“Obviously I want to start games and stuff, but in the situation that we are in now it’s just a coach decision to not play me,” Accam said.

After the roster came out, Paunovic was asked about Accam’s exclusion.

“It’s not easy when you have to pick guys from your team and some guys that you also think they deserve to be there you can’t just because of the limitations,” Paunovic said. “That’s how it is.”

Rodriguez downplayed any drama with Accam. While Accam’s quotes about being left off don’t paint a pretty picture, he did still score in New York so any unhappiness hasn’t yet seeped into his on-field performance.

“I think David’s fine,” Rodriguez said. “I think that David is enjoying his best year in Major League Soccer and I think that’s a credit to David the work that he’s put in to his season, into his offseason. I think it’s also a credit to the coaching staff in maximizing his talent and knowing how to use him. He’s been a big part of our success so far. I think he’s managed the way we try to manage all of our players.”

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon


Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

Wild season opener shows plenty of things to work on for Fire

If you were looking for entertainment, goals, plot twists and storylines, the Fire’s season opener had all of those boxes checked.

What it didn’t have was even a point for the hosts against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Toyota Park.

The first half showed a Fire team which very much looked like the “incomplete” roster that general manager Nelson Rodriguez referenced just before the season. KC led 2-0 and the Fire failed to get a shot on target, showing a lack of chance creation and any semblance of a dangerous attack.

The second half showed a Fire attack which was capable of turning the heat up on the visitors, but also a defense which couldn’t defend. Sporting's 4-3 win revealed that there’s plenty of work to do for the Fire to resemble the team that finished third in the MLS regular season last year.

“Especially in the first half we saw that we weren’t ready to compete with a team that had an advantage that they had one competition game before us,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “That was the main difference in the first half, but the adjustment in the second half was tremendous. I think just showing that we can score three goals that quickly and create even more opportunities was a positive.”

However, Paunovic wasn’t about to let his team off the hook by only speaking about positives.

“What we learned today is that we have to get better on every side of the game and in every aspect of the game,” he said. “We are not there. We didn’t have a good game. I think overall a lot of innocent and naive mistakes.”

After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Fire revved things up in the final 25 minutes and Bastian Schweinsteiger keyed the first goal with a slick assist to newcomer Aleksandar Katai. Nemanja Nikolic showed the scoring instincts and finishing ability that won him the league scoring title a year ago by scoring two more goals to give the Fire the lead in the 82nd minute.

Then it all fell apart, with two KC goals within four minutes of Nikolic giving the Fire the lead. Dax McCarty, your thoughts?

“You’re 10 minutes away from the headline and the storyline being Chicago Fire show great character, make a fantastic comeback, win the game 3-2 and yet here we are sitting here, somehow losing that game, which is insane,” McCarty said. “It’s totally insane.”

The defensive struggles, which Paunovic pointed out mirrored last year’s early playoff exit in a 4-0 loss, will need to get resolved internally. Johan Kappelhof, Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster all started on a competent defense last year and McCarty and Schweinsteiger helped play damage control in midfield. This isn’t what the weakness of the team was supposed to be yet after one game, it’s all anyone on the team could talk about.

“We gave up four goals,” Kappelhof said. “That’s not good. Simple.”

While more additions may be coming in-season, as Rodriguez has mentioned, and injuries haven’t allowed the Fire to start 2018 fresh, this game wasn’t a good sign for what’s to come for the 2018 Fire. A lack of any offensive creation in the first half and a lack of defensive concentration, as Paunovic put it, throughout the game showed a team that has plenty of pock-marks currently.

“We don’t know how to defend, quite frankly," McCarty said. "From back to front, front to back, the defending aspect of our game was pretty poor. A lot of things to learn."

The good news is even if the Fire take some time to correct the errors from Saturday’s season opener, MLS is a forgiving league. A majority of the league, 12 of 23 teams, makes the playoffs and league-wide parity means teams can go through slumps and still end in good standing. A year ago, the Fire lost six games out of seven and still had the third best record in the league. It’s OK if the team takes time to iron out some organizational issues defensively, just don’t take too long.