The usually very optimistic Veljko Paunovic had a slight tone change during Monday’s conference call with the media.
The Chicago Fire coach still maintained his upbeat words about the players and the upcoming season, but also emphasized how much improvement the team needs to make.
“I think it’s very good in pace, in how we control the game,” Paunovic said when asked about the team’s strengths. “I think that we still have to improve our mechanisms for getting in the final third, but it’s still early. We haven’t worked on that so it’s something that’s normal. In this point in the preseason we are still not working on merging it all together so those pieces are still missing. As I said, we are going to step up. Right now I think the good point is to understand the possession and the advantages of the possession and to improve the mechanisms of finishing and getting in the final third."
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The Fire landed in Tampa on Sunday for the second phase of the preseason. The first preseason game will take place on Feb. 6 against the University of South Florida. The club announced that the South Florida game will be streamed on the Fire’s website.
Nick LaBrocca, whose free agent signing was finalized on Jan. 27, joined the team on Sunday. Winger Arturo Alvarez has also joined the the team on trial. Alvarez, 30, played nine years in MLS before playing in Portugal and Hungary since 2012. Both players are behind in fitness, but will train with the team in technical and tactical training.
The most notable quote from Paunovic’s conference call was probably his take on Harry Shipp. When asked what Shipp’s best position was, Paunovic gave a somewhat deeper evaluation of Shipp.
“As an attacking midfielder, either behind the striker or on the wing,” Paunovic said of Shipp’s best role. “I think that he has that quality that he can switch positions with another teammate. I think his main quality is that he is very, very good on the ball. Good technique, but I think that he still needs to improve, especially improve that hunger to score goals, to assist, to create general space and impact in the game.”
Fitness was the main focus for week one of the preseason and that will still be true this week. The focus will shift to anaerobic work.
“We are working on improvement our anaerobic threshold, which is very important in order to play a high intensity style of play that we want to develop,” Paunovic said. “We are working on that on the physical level. On the technical and tactical, always continue to improve our technique and our understanding of the style of play which we want to be the team who controls the game.”
As for Saturday’s first preseason game, Paunovic said he plans to give as many players an opportunity as possible. The game will kickoff at 4 p.m. CT.