Chicago Fire 4:1 Seattle Sounders
Veljko Paunovic, Chicago Fire Head Coach
If this is the first game the team has put together two strong halves
“I think it is, I also think were every time this year, every time we meet after the game, we always say ‘this is the best game.’ So what I’m trying to say is that we can see that there is consistency and improvement in our team and when we play at home that improvement is more evident. But also I think the stretch we had on the road also helped us to forge that mentality and that great improvement we had so far in the season. Especially in the last game against Los Angeles and finally we completed a full game with a very consistent performance in both halves, especially the second one. I think the guys did a fantastic job, all credit to them, because they believed it, they worked hard, when they scored, when they tied the game, we were capable of coming back very quickly and holding that result until halftime. Then we did adjustments, we went outside in the second half, convinced we can win the game, we were patient, and we kept the ball, we took over the control. In the past we were incapable, we took over the control from the team who also likes the ball and is very good at that and basically that was the key point of the game. Taking the ball away from Seattle, keep it and be very sharp in finishing. So I think we had a very good game but now we’re looking ahead, we have to keep this performance this great momentum that we are building for the next game, which is in a couple of days. Which is Wednesday against Colorado.”
On options on the right with Drew Conner and Matt Polster
“Yes, we were working on our improvement in our backline on the right back. We lacked in that position but we were working so far in case of Connor since the preseason trying to give him all the tools necessary and prepare him to play the games and in the last two games he did well. In regards of Matt Polster, he came in, we had a setback with him we were also talking with him in playing that position and in the last couple of months. But with his setback and injury he needed more time. We were working on his fitness, we were working on preparing him so when the moment comes he’s ready and today he did very well. He was ready to play the minutes he had and continues improving everywhere we can and we have to improve. We are also happy to have Michael Harrington who we know in the past can play on both sides of the field. So if the guys understand how important that we learn other positions to play and that way they increase their own level and own value. It’s going to be very important also because they’ll do that for the team too.”
On the first sellout in two years and Schweinsteiger’s influence since his arrival
“We are very happy that we sold out today, we think that there is a line of progression on both sides so the team improved off the field, the club improved also. Obviously we have our challenges that we have to face every day that we are working with, and I think our front office is doing a great job to help the team and get everything that’s necessary and everything that we need, I do think Bastian did help on both sides of the game, the improvement of the team but we also do have to say that the whole team is working on that. The front office, the team, the general manager Nelson Rodriguez, everyone is on the same page and that’s the key and having a guy like Bastian who helps on both sides and it’s a great value for the club. On the MLS All-Star Game, I’m very focused on our team; I think that’s the priority for sure. As I said in the past, I’m honored that I’m going to have the opportunity to lead or coach the team for the MLS All-Star Game. What I am doing is obviously following all the players around the league but also what I’m going to do is call on my more experienced colleagues around the league who had the experience to coach the MLS All-Star Game and ask them for advice on what would be the best approach and how was their experience and once the time comes, I will start working on preparing the game.”
On the team’s mentality on facing the defending champions
“The team is growing, the team is growing. The smiles are back in Bridgeview finally and its not only one game, this is the general feeling our team has inside the locker room and outside the locker room, when we are downtown in the city, wherever we are, we can feel there is a passion about the team’s expectations, positive expectations. The people can see good results, can see great games like today, can see the overall improvement of our team, depth and the mentality where the team now feels confident and are capable of managing difficult games against difficult opponents, champions like Seattle. So, I would say the mentality changed with the consistency in believing and working hard and addressing things, fixing things on a daily basis, and wins like today help our chance to build on top of the confidence and good things we did in the past.”
If there will be more consistency in the lineup for the upcoming games
“Obviously this performance helps a lot, helps me understand what I can get from everyone, that’s something that we were saying and doing in the past that everyone needs to be engaged, it’s the best feeling for the coach when he has the depth and he has the competition in the team and we addressed that last week how important it is that everyone understands that it important for the team and when everyone has an opportunity to play to give his best, but for that to work, he needs to work hard and to be ready and we will see what we need, we have the stretch of four games in two weeks where we have to give guys some rest, and some guys we need to push them until we have that small break that we will have after the game against Dallas. It’s great to have everyone on the same page, it’s great to have everyone pushing hard for their position and also committed for whenever they have the opportunity to be ready and give their best.”
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Chicago Fire Midfielder
On returning home from a long road trip
"It is always a good feeling to play at home. We had a very good second half today. We adjusted some things at halftime to play better with the ball, and we did a very good job in the second half."
On the difference between halves
"In the first half, it was not easy sometimes to defend. Seattle, the wingers especially come inside, so it was not always easy to get in a one-on-one situation. Our coach changed some things and as I said, it was much better in the second half against the ball, we made less mistakes, which we did in the first half."
On the difference between playing at home and on the road
"For me, actually, there is no difference. Obviously, we've made more points at home than away games, but the way we played in LA, we should have won; the way we played in New York, we should have at least gotten a draw there. We didn't play bad, it was not that the team dominated us; we just didn't play well enough, we made some mistakes in the game, and that's why we didn't make points. Today, for example, was a game we deserved to win. It was a better feeling on the field, every player enjoyed to play, every player was moving, getting options; we found the free player today much better. I think we did a very good job during the week, so we improved our game. I hope we can keep this level and gets some points also on the road."
On playing in front of a sellout crowd
"Thank you to our supporters, it was a great atmosphere today in the stadium. As you could see, it helped us; I hope for the next home match, it's going to be the same."
On confidence gained from defeating the champion
"It gives us confidence. Seattle is a good team, they have very good players, they won last year. But we are more focused on our game plan, on our philosophy and what we have. We are a very good team when we understand the game, when we are moving, when everyone is giving options, when we close the gaps and make it difficult for the opponent to play. Today we did a very good job, especially in the second half. We just need to keep going, keep working, take all the confidence that we got today for the next match and maybe play 90 minutes like today's second half."
Dax McCarty, Chicago Fire Midfielder
If this was the most complete performance of the season
"I would actually say that some of our performances during this road trip, specifically the Red Bull game, I thought our performance was mainly a little bit more complete. I think we played a pretty good 90 minutes there and just came out on the wrong end of the result. Tonight, unbelievable second half; the first half, it wasn't perfect from us. I think we created some pretty good chances, but we didn't have possession. I thought we allowed them to dictate a little bit too much of the game. Once we got the ball back, we gave it away way too easily. We were rushing things, we didn't have much composure going forward. It seemed like every time we won the ball, the first pass was either going out of bounds or going to the other team, or we were trying to go score with one or two passes. That's frustrating because you don't get a rhythm. Seattle is a really good team, and they start popping the ball around in the midfield and creating chances, and you're just kind of chasing shadows there. I'd say no, it wasn't the most complete performance, but I'd say the second half, probably the best half of the season. Really proud of the guys, it would have been easy to come back with our heads down in the locker room after Seattle played well in the first half, but I thought we fought well and got a deserved result."
On learning to play in big games
"These are big games for the club: national television, sellout crowd, bright lights, night game. These are games that players should dream about, these are games that you should thrive in, you should really want to play in these big games. After the first half, I thought we were pretty dangerous, we created some good chances on the break but we didn't play that well. We came in the locker room and regrouped, we changed a couple things, and we came out and showed character, we showed a little bit of attitude. That was something that I thought this team needs to get better at, we need to continue. If we had come out of the locker room against LA and played like we did in the second half tonight, we would be walking off that field with three points and feeling pretty good about ourselves right now. We still have a long way to go, no question about it. Like I said, we're still learning on the fly how to win; that's something that only comes with going through tough games like tonight."
On frustrations in a big win
"You're obviously frustrated because Seattle loves to overload the midfield, they have three or four guys constantly buzzing around the middle of the field and they're all really good, dangerous players. To lose Clint Dempsey like that is unacceptable. The guy is deadly, one of the most deadly finishers in the game. You lose him like that, it's frustrating because that's a goal you shouldn't be giving up. But you regroup in the second half, made it to halftime to make some adjustments, and came out in the second half and played well. I thought everyone on the field for the most part in the second half won their individual battles. When you have guys step on the field that aren't scared and win their individual battles, you're going to have a good day."
Nemanja Nikolic, Chicago Fire Forward
On a hot scoring start
"Yes, many times I have started like this, in Hungary and Poland. For me, it's not something new; for the people here, for the media, maybe it is. I have teammates that help me a lot day by day to improve my game, to adapt faster to the league. Today, they helped me score two goals, and I'm happy to win against the team that won the championship last year. It's very important for this team, this team is new, it wants to improve from what it did last year, so these kind of victories help us a lot. I think in New York we also played really good against Red Bulls, maybe we didn't deserve to lose that game. Against LA, we played very good in the first half, we had 2-0, and after that we took home just one point. Today, we showed that we are in the right way, that we can control the game. Also, we scored when we conceded a goal. We didn't stop, we continued to play our game. In the second half, we scored three goals and had more opportunities. I think against this kind of opponent like Seattle, a really good team, it's a really good signal for us."
On playing better at home
"If you look at the result, yes, you can say that in Toyota Park we play really good. But like I said, in New York we also played very good. I can say that in Atlanta, we don't play good because we were with ten players in the beginning of that game, Johan Kappelhof received a red card. But in all other games, we tried to play this kind of style that we play in Toyota Park. In New York, I think we created a lot of opportunities, we didn't have luck in the game. In LA, I think we also played really good. Sometimes you win, sometimes not, but you need learn how to control the game. We had a good result today, after 2-1, we go to score one more goal and it was the key of winning. After 2-1 we don't drop our intensity. We kept doing the same things that we spoke at halftime. We tried to score on the turnaround and Lucho scored after I scored. When you have a good result, you don't need to drop, you don't need to be scared of nobody, you just need to follow the things that you talk before the game and to believe in the work."