Fire winger David Accam trying to 'be more of a creative player'

Fire winger David Accam trying to 'be more of a creative player'

David Accam has been most known for his speed since joining the Chicago Fire before the 2015 season.

The 26-year-old is one of the fastest players in Major League Soccer and has made some impressive highlights with that speed.

However, his game has come under fire for being somewhat one-dimensional. While the Ghanaian can still dribble by players, his touch hasn’t been as crisp this season and he has had trouble staying healthy since joining the Fire. In each of his first two seasons he missed 10 regular season games. A hip injury that Accam said is the same one he had last season has forced him to come off the bench twice in eight games in 2017.

Entering this season there was a question of how Accam would perform when the Fire’s attack wasn’t going to revolve around him. The addition of Nemanja Nikolic at forward, and a revamped midfield, meant the Fire would likely rely less on hitting long balls for Accam to use his speed to chase after.

Accam scored a goal in the season opener at Columbus that was a vintage Accam goal, using his quickness to create a chance. Since then he hasn’t been as dangerous in front of goal, both due to missed opportunities on his part and Nikolic (who has five goals) becoming the focal point in the penalty box.

“I think we have Niko and Michael de Leeuw who are really good finishers,” Accam said. “For me, at the moment it is good for me to just take it easy and try and create more chances for them.

“I want to score more goals, but I think I’m doing really well at trying to create more chances for them.”

Accam has a pair of assists this season and both have come from quality passes. He set up Bastian Schweinsteiger’s debut goal with a well-hit cross following a short corner and hit a perfectly weighted centering pass to Nikolic two weeks later.

Last Saturday at the New York Red Bulls, Accam was credited with five key passes, a statistic for passes that set up a scoring opportunity. That was more than any other player on the field and one fewer than the Red Bulls had as a team. On another day with better finishing, Accam could have had another assist or two.

After having two assists all season in 2015 and five last year, it appears Accam’s value as a creator has improved this year. Is this something he has put more emphasis on this season?

“I’m a forward player. I want to score goals, but I think at the moment the best thing is for me to just be more of a creative player and let the two players lead and just be behind them,” Accam said.

Accam said this isn’t a directive from the coaching staff.

“I think for me as a professional I know what is good for the team,” he said. “I’m trying to play more for the team so I just decided myself to do that more often.”

Coach Veljko Paunovic said this is nothing new from Accam’s game, but did say he has improved his work rate defensively, something that has been another knock on Accam's game in the past.

“He’s just alternating the roles that he can in a game,” Paunovic said. “Sometimes it’s assisting, sometimes it is him resolving the situation and scoring goals. He has that, he can do that. It’s helpful also for the team and the effort that he is doing because I think this year he is more engaged in a team’s efforts and organization defensively.”

Fire's 2018 goalkeeper picture becoming clearer


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


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.