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Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic warns of a ‘tough couple of months’ after Portland draw

Mar 31, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Portland Timbers forward Fanendo Adi (9) and Chicago Fire midfielder Drew Conner (18) run for a loose ball during the second half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Neither Chicago nor Portland have a win to their names through the first month of the MLS season, but one team was happier with Saturday’s 2-2 draw.

Portland coach Giovani Savarese praised the progress his team showed in earning a second straight road draw after dropping the first two matches of the season. Meanwhile, Fire coach Veljko Paunovic and midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger could only vent frustration.

Paunovic opened his press conference with a statement to fans that was both a warning and a promise of better things to come.

“Get ready and prepare for a tough couple of months because we are far from the team that we were and it’s going to take some time to fix it and we have to stick together,” Paunovic said. “I want to make that clear. We have a good team, but we are still not in the shape that this team used to play and then we showed in the past. The past is behind and what we have to do now is fix what we have in front of us. That’s a difficult situation in terms of lack of confidence, lack of precision and lack of clarity sometimes in ideas, but that’s why we are here. I promise that we’re going to fix [it.]”

The Fire trailed twice in the match. Diego Valeri gave the Timbers the lead in the sixth minute. Then Nemanja Nikolic scored his third of the season to tie it up just after halftime. Sebastian Blanco, who assisted Valeri’s goal, scored a header to give the Timbers a second lead in the 55th minute. Brandon Vincent headed home his third career goal, two of which have come against the Timbers, to earn the point in the 84th minute.

Schweinsteiger has been used to winning in his prestigious career. He wasn’t pleased with the draw, even if it was the Fire’s first point of the season.

“When you’re twice down and then get the draw, it’s OK, but I’m not a friend of playing for a draw,” Schweinsteiger said. “I want to win. I think we should win these kind of games, but we are not there to win these kind of games and that’s why we have a lot of work to do.”


Schweinsteiger doesn’t usually pull many punches when it comes to evaluating his team. He won’t criticize individual players to the media, but he will lament the team’s mistakes frequently. Saturday was no exception when he was asked about what is different from last year when the Fire finished third in the regular season.

“The difference from last year is not easy to say, but we have to work,” Schweinsteiger said. “We have to improve our technical mistakes and it happens maybe too many times. We lose the ball because of that. To play a smart ball, to be aware in some situations a little bit earlier, quicker thinking. All these things make a very big impact for our game and we have to work on that. It’s not going to be easy, but we have to be optimistic and we have to believe in ourselves, but first of all, work, work, work.”

Paunovic also had another warning. This time it was directed more towards the players.

“Difficult decisions are coming,” Paunovic said. “Difficult decisions. We made some mistakes. I made mistakes. I have to fix it.”




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