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.”