The soccer world is heading into an international break and the off week comes at a good time for the Chicago Fire.
A few players are nursing injuries, but coach Veljko Paunovic sounded optimistic that the injuries are minor and that the full squad could play against Philadelphia on April 2.
David Accam, who missed Saturday's 0-0 draw against Columbus, was described as day-by-day by Paunovic during his weekly conference call with media.
"He is very positive that he can make it so we believe he will be ready," Paunovic said.
The injury to John Goossens, who left at halftime with a hamstring injury, was described by Paunovic as "not that serious." Paunovic said the Dutch midfielder should be able to rejoin the rest of the team in a couple days.
Arturo Alvarez also had some fatigue and soreness, according to Paunovic, and sat out training today. The combination of these injuries and players being away on international duty, like Brandon Vincent and Matt Polster, meant there were only 14 players available in training today.
Paunovic addressed how Sean Johnson is handling being the No. 2 goalkeeper after making more than 150 appearances with the club since 2010.
“I can tell you that he’s handling that very good," Paunovic said. "He works hard and he is someone that always helps his teammates. How he’s handled it, we appreciate it. He’s a really, really good teammate and a good player.
"From my point of view, I understand and I know what he’s going through. I’ve been through that and I understand and I know that every player wants to play. The situation with him is the same situation."
The Fire may have no plans to trade Johnson at the moment, and Paunovic denied any possible trades when asked, but he has an above average MLS salary for a goalkeeper. In a league with a very tight salary cap, having a well-paid backup goalkeeper isn't exactly an efficient use of resources. If the Fire viewed trading Harry Shipp as something beneficial for both sides when Shipp was no longer deemed a starter, it would seem the same circumstances apply to Johnson. There are certainly teams in the league that would view Johnson as an upgrade at goalkeeper.
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Another potential position battle could be emerging at right back. Rodrigo Ramos got his first start on Saturday after two substitute appearances in the first two matches while Michael Harrington served his suspension for the red card at Orlando.
“We are very happy with the performance of Rodrigo," Paunovic said. "We can see that he is ready now to play and now he has to compete for the spot like everyone else.
"Sometimes he carries the ball too much and that makes him lose a lot of energy, which we have to work on. He knows that, we told him. He’s a really great kid, very talented and on the other side he has to earn it. He can play as a right back, he can play in different systems. He can play in the last system we played, a 3-5-2, he can also be very useful in a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3.”
The Philadelphia match will show if Paunovic thinks Ramos earned another start or if Paunovic sticks with Harrington as his starter.