Fire coach Paunovic wants struggling offense to pick up pace

SHARE Fire coach Paunovic wants struggling offense to pick up pace

David Accam kicks a goal past Orlando City SC goalkeeper Joseph Bendik on March 11. It’s the Fire’s only goal in the last two games. | Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP

The Fire made shoring up their defense an offseason priority, but three games into the season, coach Veljko Paunovic is making a push for better offense.

After the Fire scored one goal in back-to-back draws, including going scoreless and putting only one shot on goal Saturday against Columbus, Paunovic is going on the offensive with his club during the international break. 

The Fire played without leading scorer David Accam (knee sprain) against the Crew. The injury will force Accam to miss the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, but Paunovic is hopeful Accam will be healthy in time for the game April 2 against Philadelphia.

Paunovic is also optimistic about Dutch midfielder John Goossens, who was dealing with hamstring soreness but was expected to return to training this week.

Despite the Fire’s lack of scoring since getting three goals in their season-opening loss to New York City FC, Paunovic isn’t frustrated. At the same time, however, he understands that making strides toward boosting his team’s offensive firepower is a must.

“It’s a process,” Paunovic said. “We built that defense and now that is solid, and we can progress in parts that are important like possession and finishing in the last third.”

Paunovic also realizes that patience will be a major part of the plan.

Despite the lack of a win, Paunovic still senses progress, especially with younger players such as second-year midfielder Matt Polster and rookie defenders Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell.

As he waits for things to come together, Paunovic continues to preach the development of his system and implementation of his plan. But he knows for things to work, he has to be the one to provide the right message.

“I demand, but I’m not impatient,” Paunovic said. “I know that it’s going to take time, but I’m going to demand and I’m going to ask and I’m going to support.”

Friendly confines

Bundesliga leader FC Bayern Munich and perennial Serie A power AC Milan will meet at 8 p.m. July 27 at Soldier Field as part of the 2016 International Champions Cup and Audi Football Summit. The Champions Cup will run from July 23 to August 13 with each team playing three matches.

Tickets for the FC Bayern Munich and AC Milan matchup will be available beginning at 10 a.m. March 29, while the general public will have access to tickets beginning April 5. For more information, go to

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.

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