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.

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.