BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire need wins, and they got one Saturday against San Jose, but that didn’t spare the team from harsh words from its coach.
Coach Veljko Paunović did have some good things to say about the team, but was very stern when choosing words after a 2-1 win against the Earthquakes. The Fire allowed San Jose to get back in the game with a goal in the 74th minute and had to endure some late pressure to hold onto the victory.
“I’m not happy with the performance,” Paunović said. “Especially the play when we conceded the goal, I’m not happy with how we behaved, how we treated our opponent and the outcome of the lack of seriousness, the lack of professionalism. I told the guys I will speak with them Monday, especially individuals will hear me out.
“I’m a competitor. If I see that somebody is not competing in that locker room, you better change or you’re not going to be here. I’m very serious with this. When I saw what I saw today in the last 15-20 minutes, I was sick. I was really sick. If that happens again, (either) I’m not going to be here or somebody else is not going to be here. I’m saying this very, very clearly and they will hear from me.”
It’s not clear which individuals Paunović was referring to, but this came after he was asked about Aleksandar Katai. Katai scored the Fire’s second goal and has two goals and two assists in the last four games.
“I did see better from him, but I also see a lack of consistency in his game,” Paunovic began when asked about Katai before beginning his rant. “Fantastic goal today, but still I think he has more to give.”
Jun 2, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire goalkeeper Richard Sanchez (45) makes a save San Jose Earthquakes defender Jimmy Ockford (15) during the second half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Meanwhile, Paunović was unequivocally positive when talking about Alan Gordon, who scored the first goal of the game off a header. Luis Solignac, making his first start since the second game of the season, delivered the assist with an early cross. It was Gordon’s fourth goal of the year.
“He just put it up there and I went to go get it,” Gordon said. “That was about it. Lucho put in a good ball, allowed me to go up in a one-v-one battle.”
San Jose’s goal came from Danny Hoesen on a cross from Chris Wondolowski. The Earthquakes had plenty of the ball and four corners after getting within a goal. Jimmy Ockford won a header in the box following one of the corners in added time, but it sailed over the bar.
The win put the Fire two points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.