Fresh off the disappointment of conceding a goal in the 90th minute that turned a win into a draw, Fire coach Veljko Paunovic returned to his optimistic self.
Paunovic talked with reporters on Tuesday during a conference call and said the team has moved on from the disappointing tie with the New York Red Bulls, which he again said felt like a loss.
“You can permit yourself that night to be disappointed, but then you have to stand up the next day,” Paunovic said. “This is how we are working this week, facing two very important games. One on the road against Real Salt Lake [on Saturday] and the second one, the semifinal against New England [on Aug. 9], obviously the Open Cup. The challenge for us will be to recover the guys.”
Joao Meira, who suffered a hamstring strain against the Red Bulls, won’t be available in Salt Lake. Paunovic kept the possibility open that he could play in New England.
Part of the team’s preparation this week involves a scrimmage on Tuesday. Paunovic said the extra game-action will benefit players who have not played as much recently. Rookie Joey Calistri won’t participate due to a lingering ankle injury.
The Fire haven’t won a game on the road in more than two years so facing two road games in the span of four days will be a tough test.
“It’s something that we are dealing with the whole year and we believe,” Paunovic said of the team’s winless road streak. “We believe it will come. We prepare for every game in order to win and we will do our best in the game against Real Salt Lake. We know it’s going to be tough. A lot of adjustments are there, playing in altitude and all the stuff.
“We believe that we are having huge improvements in our team in the last month, especially when we are playing at home. I think that’s the process. As I said many times, we started with building our solid defense, now we are very competitive playing our games at home.”
Paunovic reiterated the need for the team to improve on the mental side. While he applauded the team’s ability to turn a deficit into a lead against the Red Bulls, giving up the late goal and not being able to close out the game is partially on the mental side.
The summer transfer window closes on Wednesday and Paunovic teased reporters that they should stay ready with one day remaining. The Fire have been connected to Armenian forward David Arshakyan.
Another move that the Fire have reportedly been connected to is U.S. national teamer Alejandro Bedoya’s move to the Philadelphia Union. The Union are No. 2 in the league’s allocation order, which Bedoya is subject to, and the Fire hold the No. 1 spot. The Fire may be able to get some compensation, likely in the form of allocation money, from the Union for the top spot.