Fire

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

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USA TODAY

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's 2018 goalkeeper picture becoming clearer

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USA TODAY

Fire's 2018 goalkeeper picture becoming clearer

When the Fire announced that three goalkeepers, Jorge Bava, Matt Lampson and Stefan Cleveland, all had their options picked up for 2018 and the team was negotiating a deal to bring back Richard Sanchez, something had to give.

It appears that has been sorted out with the news that Sanchez is in fact back with the Fire, but also that it appears Bava has left the team.

On Monday the Fire announced Sanchez signed a contract guaranteeing him for 2018 and 2019 with a club option for 2020. The 23-year-old made two starts with the Fire in 2017 after he was brought in on Aug. 11.

As is fairly common practice in MLS, the option on Sanchez's initial contract with the Fire was for more than what he signed for on this new deal, according to a source. This is similar to what happened with Razvan Cocis and Luis Solignac in the past two years. Those players both had their options declined only to be brought back for a lower salary number.

Sanchez had mixed results on the field, making one of the better goalkeeper performances the Fire had in 2017 in his debut in San Jose, but then struggled in the regular season finale in Houston. He's young enough to believe he can improve, especially at goalkeeper where players tend to hit their peak older than field players.

As for Bava, it seems all but official that he has joined Liverpool FC Montevideo in his home country of Uruguay. The team's official account tweeted out a welcome to Bava, although there has been no word from the Fire yet.

Bava, 36, made eight starts before being benched in favor of Lampson and missed the second half of the season with an elbow injury that required surgery. Once Bava's exit is finalized the Fire will have three goalkeepers instead of the overloaded four.

When Bava was hurt and Sanchez was brought on as a late-season replacement, Lampson and Sanchez emerged as the two candidates for starting goalkeeper. It appears that battle will continue in 2018.

Lampson has far more professional experience with 51 MLS appearances while Sanchez only made sporadic starts in lower divisions in the U.S. and Mexico before joining the Fire. Sanchez was a fairly well-regarded prospect having played with Mexico's Under-17 and U-20 teams at youth World Cups.

Not counting Bava, the Fire have 19 players under contract. Bastian Schweinsteiger's situation remains unofficial, although reports have said he is likely to return. The MLS combine has completed two of three rounds of matches with the draft taking place on Friday.

Fire reportedly trade prized homegrown prospect Cam Lindley to Orlando

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USA TODAY

Fire reportedly trade prized homegrown prospect Cam Lindley to Orlando

For the past two offseasons, Cam Lindley’s name has popped up as a potential key addition for the Fire.

The North Carolina sophomore has been one of the top midfielders in college soccer the past two seasons and has established himself as a good MLS prospect. The Fire held his homegrown rights after he traveled from Indianapolis to play with the Fire’s academy in high school, even helping the U-18 team win the Development Academy national title in 2015.

The Fire failed to sign him last offseason, with Lindley electing to return to college. When the college season ended and negotiations started up again this winter, Lindley turned down the Fire’s homegrown offer. Initially, it was expected that meant he was returning to school, but now Paul Tenorio has reported that the Fire traded Lindley’s homegrown rights to Orlando.


In Tenorio’s reported deal, which he said was still being finalized, the Fire receive right back Rafael Ramos and allocation money from the Lions. The move means Orlando gets the exclusive rights within MLS to negotiate with Lindley and if he signs he will still count as a homegrown for Orlando.

Lindley did not train at all with the Fire in the past year, instead electing to stay in North Carolina when he played in the PDL (a summer league for college players). In 2016, Lindley played with the Fire’s PDL team. The Fire’s three other best homegrown prospects who played in college this past season, Grant Lillard, Andrew Gutman and Mauricio Pineda, all spent some time in training with the Fire in 2017. Pineda stayed after practice multiple times with coach Veljko Paunovic in one-on-one drills. Lillard, the only senior of the four, signed his homegrown deal with the Fire earlier this week.

On the one hand, the Fire get a player in Ramos, who is 23 years old and could help provide depth at both right back and left back. The Portuguese player made 39 MLS appearances in three years with Orlando, including 24 starts in 2015, but injuries contributed to a lack of playing time last season when

Ramos played 55 MLS minutes. A hamstring injury limited him in 2016 and again in the 2017 preseason when he was expected to be the starter at right back. Once he returned, Scott Sutter had established himself at the position.

Ramos vented his frustration at a lack of playing time in an Orlando Sentinel story in October.

On the other hand, Lindley is a player who was racking up the accolades at UNC. As a freshman he tallied seven assists and was named national Freshman of the Year by Top Drawer Soccer and a first team All-ACC pick. This season, he had seven goals and 13 assists and was a first team All-American by United Soccer Coaches, Top Drawer Soccer and College Soccer News in addition to being named ACC Midfielder of the Year. The Tar Heels made it to the College Cup semifinals both years.

The midfielder could be good enough to receive interest from European teams, which could make it good business for the Fire to get something from within MLS for him instead of letting him go for free.

If the trade materializes, it will be a failure on the Fire’s part to convince a talented young player who spent time in the team’s academy to sign, but also a success in getting something of value in return for a player who may not want to sign with the team.