BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- After a whirlwind week flying back from Paris and receiving his international transfer certificate on Friday afternoon, new Fire forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle made his club debut in Saturday’s 3-3 draw vs. D.C. United.
Called upon to replacing Alex on the left with the team trailing 3-2 in the 63rd minute, the Frenchman felt he had a reasonable first outing since last playing a competitive match back in April.
“For myself I was quite confident,” he told Chicago-Fire.com. “I was feeling okay. The most important thing is that I’m feeling fit and in good shape and I’m ready for any time.”
Sinama-Pongolle helped aid in the Fire’s push for an equalizer, first having a legitimate penalty shout in the 75th minute. The 29-year-old attacker pinched into the box as Patrick Nyarko served his cross from the right, only to be upended by United’s Nick DeLeon who was desperate in his backtracking.
Sinama-Pongolle got his head to the ball but was obviously clipped by DeLeon as he went up, with the third-year United midfielder making no attempt for the cross.
Given a more puzzling first half penalty kick that was awarded to D.C. United by referee Fotis Bazakos, the French attacker felt the match mediator should have pointed to the spot on his play.
“If the first one was called against Baky I think mine was more clear,” he said. “Actually I touch the ball – the one that was called for DC, Sean touched the ball. I was in the box making a play for the ball trying to get it on frame and he played me vs. the ball. He was already late, he wasn’t watching the ball. You can’t change the decision but I think it just influenced the game for sure.”
Moments after that contentious play, Sinama-Pongolle proved dangerous again, whipping in a free kick from the left that saw Lovel Palmer head down at the back post only to be blocked by falling teammate Jeff Larentowicz.
Of course, the Fire did pull level minutes later as Matt Watson opened his club and MLS account on a deflected shot from distance. While the team didn’t come away with a victory, the fight back was important.
“Even though I played quite a lot of time on the left side and to come back after losing 3-2, that’s good. We show our character in getting the result and need to improve going into the next match.”
With playoff hopes dwindling, the Fire need to win at least five of their remaining six matches and maybe all six to realistically have post-season hope. That final month-long stretch begins on Sunday afternoon in Houston where Sinama-Pongolle says he’s already well aware of the heat and humidity.
“It’s definitely going to be difficult. We have to play with the head. Football isn’t all about fitness and skill, the head must work to know how to use the ball. Running after the ball in humidity at mid-day heat is hard. We have to play our football. We have quality players and we need to take the game in our side, not leave it to them to manage.”
And with him now back Stateside for nearly a week, he says he’s ready to gain more minutes or even possibly start if called upon Sunday vs. the Dynamo.
“Yeah definitely,” he said. “Like I say, I didn’t have a lot of time for a break since I stopped in Russia, I had games on my legs in preseason with Le Havre. For me it won’t be a problem to start but I have to be available for any situation and that’s it.”
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