Fire

David Accam happy for recent break after busy stretch with Ghana and the Fire

David Accam happy for recent break after busy stretch with Ghana and the Fire

After a busy couple of weeks, David Accam was happy for the break he and his Chicago Fire teammates got.

Accam played a pair of friendlies with the Ghanaian national team, June 28 vs. Mexico in Houston and July 1 vs. the U.S. in East Hartford, Connecticut, before rejoining the Fire for a match in Portland on July 5.

With Ghana, Accam came off the bench and played 31 minutes in the 1-0 loss to Mexico. He started, but was subbed out at halftime against the U.S. in a 2-1 American win. Then Accam traveled from East Coast to West Coast to play in Portland.

After earning a tough draw in Portland, the Fire were off from training for six days.

“I went out with my friends, just taking it easy with my friends and family,” Accam said. “I didn’t do much. I just wanted to rest and hang out with my friends and family.”

The Fire returned to training on Wednesday in a session that didn’t feature Bastian Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic or even coach Veljko Paunovic, who was in Tampa for league competition meetings.

“You want to be playing every time, but also the break is good,” Accam said. “Everyone is happy to come back with more energy.”

Accam’s time with Ghana wasn’t a resounding success. Not only did the team lose both games, but Accam failed to make a significant impression individually.

Even during arguably the best year of his club career, Accam hasn’t been called in consistently to the national team. He was not on the roster for the 2017 African Cup of Nations, which took place in January and February, and was only a late addition to the roster for the two recent friendlies.

When asked how his recent time with Ghana went, Accam wasn’t speaking in glowing terms.

“It was OK,” he said. “To be fair, we lost both games and for me I was happy to be playing with the national team also and I saw some of my friends so it was good.”

With the Fire, Accam has 10 goals, tied for fifth most in the league, and seven assists, also tied for fifth most. Those kind of numbers make it seem likely he will join Schweinsteiger and Nikolic in the MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field, but Accam wasn’t ready to predict his chances of getting the nod.

“I don’t know,” he said. “For me, I’m playing well. I’m doing well for the team and if I get in, it’s a bonus. If I don’t, nothing changes. I think I’ve done enough to get in, so I’ll just wait and see what happens.”

The rest of the MLS All-Star roster is expected to come out later in mid-July.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

joao-1118.jpg
USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.

After five week wait, Michael de Leeuw finally has knee surgery

de-leeuw-1109.jpg
USA TODAY

After five week wait, Michael de Leeuw finally has knee surgery

Due to an early playoff exit, the players of the 2017 Chicago Fire have begun to disperse around the country to see family and friends back home during the offseason.

It’s not hard to make an argument that injuries played a significant part in the team’s playoff defeat. Michael de Leeuw went down on Sept. 30 with a torn ACL, Bastian Schweinsteiger played only 19 minutes in the last seven games of the season and Juninho wasn’t quite back to 100 percent when the playoffs rolled around. De Leeuw’s absence especially seemed to change the way the team played.

“Michael is loved by everyone in the locker room,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “That’s off the field, but on the field he also put his best always. His quality, his mentality, character, leadership. He’s a winner, he wanted to win. That piece maybe we missed.”

More than five weeks after suffering the knee injury against New York City FC on Sept. 30, de Leeuw had his surgery on Thursday morning. Teenager Djordje Mihailovic suffered an ACL tear in the playoff loss nearly a full month after de Leeuw’s, but still had his surgery a week before the Dutchman.

“It was also my MCL,” de Leeuw said the day before his surgery. “It was a little bit sprained so that’s why they had to wait a little bit longer. Djordje only had his ACL, that’s why he already got surgery. When I saw he already got surgery I was like ‘S***, when is my turn? When can I go to the table?’ My knee is fine. It was a couple weeks longer, but it’s good now. It’s calm.”

De Leeuw said he was “a little bit” nervous going into the surgery because it was his first surgery. He had already been building his muscles, specifically quad strength, in advance of the procedure. The 31-year-old, who shared the team lead in assists with eight, will stay in Chicago for the rehab process.

He is under contract through 2018 with a club option for 2019. When asked about his long-term future, de Leeuw is confident he can return to 100 percent next season.

“I know my body,” he said. “I will be back for sure and I will be back stronger because I can do a lot of stuff in the gym now. That’s one thing I’m sure about. I will be back and I will be back stronger.

“I’m not done with the club and things I want to do here and accomplish here.”

[RELATED: Few answers, but some hints about future as Fire officially enter offseason]

His, and Mihailovic’s, absence for the first part of 2018 will also have an impact on how the Fire approach this offseason. De Leeuw established himself as a regular starter and Mihailovic was starting to become a regular in the lineup towards the end of the year, especially after de Leeuw’s injury.

“We, for a while, had believed we had good depth, we had emerging talent on the attacking side,” general manager Nelson Rodriguez said. “We could maybe disproportionately focus our attention in other areas, other lines of play, but we have to be realistic. They each could miss a large portion of the season so we have to reconsider our initial thoughts and revise our plan a little bit. For sure now, I think we’ll need to look to add some attacking piece because that’s a lot of minutes that we planned on that will need to be filled.”