As the Fire completed their offseason business, a running theme was the urgency to get players signed and ready before training camp began. By doing that, the Fire hoped and believed their newest and most expensive pieces would be fully integrated and settled in time for a strong start to the regular season.
For various reasons, it hasn’t quite worked out that way.
Entering Saturday’s game against Toronto FC, the Fire are still waiting for Designated Players Shaun Maloney, David Accam, and Kennedy Igboananike to make a true difference. While Igboananike is expected to come off the bench after failing to score in his first four games of sporadic impact, Accam and Maloney are likely to start together.
And, the 1-3-0 Fire hope, show why their arrivals were as hyped.
“It takes a while for guys to settle in but I’m excited to have them out on the field,” Fire coach Frank Yallop said. “That will be good for the fans and us alike.”
Accam and Maloney missed last Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Union because of international duty, continuing a here-today, gone-tomorrow start for their Fire careers. Saturday should be Accam’s first start after playing only 45 regular-season minutes due to a groin injury during the preseason, while Maloney’s been quiet during his three appearances.
On Friday, Yallop mentioned how little Accam trained with the Fire during the preseason due to the Africa Cup of Nations tournament and immigration hang-ups. Maloney also contended with immigration issues that cost him preseason time with the team. Then add in Accam’s injury and the travels he and Maloney have recently taken to be with their national teams, and maybe the slow starts shouldn’t be surprising as they mesh with a rebuilt roster.
“They’ve not really been here,” Yallop said. “We’re still getting to know them and we’re still trying to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they actually play on the team.”
Partially because of those factors, the Fire haven’t gotten the early results they wanted.
“I think we all wanted the season to start, on a personal level and as a team, to be really firing on all cylinders,” Maloney said. “I think probably it was just asking a bit too much.”
Luckily for the Fire, things should start to get settled. Accam and Maloney won’t be leaving for the national teams again until mid-June, and each day the new signings train with the Fire is another step closer to getting fully acclimated.
“At the moment it feels great because I’m now settling in,” Accam said. “I don’t think there will be any more travels soon so I’m happy. I’m happy to be back here.”
NOTE: Jon Busch will start in goal in place of Sean Johnson, who suffered an eye abrasion during practice this week. Busch also started the Fire’s 1-0 loss March 14 in place of Johnson after his right arm became infected.