Even before the Fire snapped a six-game winless streak with a 1-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo last weekend, general manager Nelson Rodriguez was encouraged.
While acknowledging a losing wasn’t what he expected and wasn’t “good enough yet”, Rodriguez said he had seen progress. Despite his disappointment, he admitted understanding that growing pains were going to be a natural part of the rebuilding process.
Rodriguez pleaded for patience, which he understands can be in short demand from a fan base that doesn’t tolerate losing. In time, Rodriguez said, the progress would carry over to the win-loss column.
“We knew there would be a point in time during the course of the year when the results would not go our way,” Rodriguez said. “…It’s how we handle those moments that are going to be the real indicator of the team that we will be come.”
One victory over a fellow Major League Soccer basement dweller is only a small step toward the winning results Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic are looking for. But in addition to providing the Fire’s second win of the season, it also provided signs that the Fire have made strides despite their losing record.
The Fire registered 20 shots – including seven on-goal – which represents the most offense they had put on display since a season-opening loss to New York City FC. David Accam returned to the line-up and with Dutch midfielder and scoring threat Michael De Leeuw set to join the Fire after July 4, the Fire are looking to build enough momentum, Rodriguez believes, to be in playoff contention by October.
Midfielder John Goossens continues to rehabilitate a knee injury that will keep him out of the lineup until after the Copa America break. Defender Michael Harrington (knee) remains a question mark for Saturday’s game at Toyota Park against Portland, which may leave Brandon Vincent to continue to play in his place.
While Rodriguez continues to stress the building process, Paunovic will continue to look for weekly improvement. The Fire faces a Timbers team that has lost three of their last four games. Although Paunovic liked the way his team’s attack improved against Houston, he understands it won’t mean much if the Fire don’t build on it on Saturday at home.
Paunovic’s message to his players this week has been simple: Believe.
“We are building momentum,” Paunovic said this week. “We believe that winning the game against Houston will help us to come to this game with more confidence, better prepared, and that’s something that we have to work on this week.
“We believe that it’s a great moment for us to finish that first part of the season winning against a very good team and at least have a very good performance.”
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