How Vincent's improvement corresponds with Fire's success

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Fire defender Brandon Vincent, right, has been a key figure in the team's defensive improvement this season.

    Chicago Fire defender Brandon Vincent, right, has been a key figure in the team's defensive improvement this season. Associated Press

  • Brandon Vincent

    Brandon Vincent

 
 
Updated 6/2/2017 2:19 PM

Chicago Fire left back Brandon Vincent was a MLS all-star in 2016, which is ironic because he's probably more deserving but less likely to make it in 2017.

"I think that was a little bit of a surprise for myself honestly," Vincent said of last year's all-star nod. "That was kind of an up-and-down season. I wasn't expecting that, but I took it in stride and tried to do the best I could with it."

 

Like the team itself, Vincent is having a much better season this year, though he has been overshadowed by new teammates such as league-scoring leader Nemanja Nikolic, German superstar Bastian Schweinsteiger and U.S. international Dax McCarty. Because of them, his chances of playing against Real Madrid in the Aug. 2 All-Star Game at Soldier Field are slim, though he did make the ballot.

But as his 3 assists this season and three straight appearances on the league's team of the week attest, Vincent is living up to the team's expectations when the Fire traded for him on draft day after NYCFC picked him in the first round, No. 4 overall, out of Stanford in 2016.

The Fire (7-3-3, 24 points) will put a four-game win streak on the line Sunday at Orlando City SC (6:30 p.m., FS1).

"I believe that Brandon is doing an amazing job adjusting to the required levels of our league," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said after last week's victory against FC Dallas. "He did that last year and this year it's much easier for him.

"He can keep the possession, he can support the possession and have dangerous crosses like today's assist in the final third and he is improving his game in the defensive part where he likes to engage more.

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"There are a lot of pieces where he's putting his game."

You can wrap it all up in a bow by saying Vincent's confidence is sky high, and with good reason.

"I'm in a better place mentally," he said, attributing part of that to the new players and improved results for the Fire (7-3-3, 24 points), now in second place in the Eastern Conference after finishing 10th last year. The Fire has 5 shutouts this season.

"Don't get me wrong," he added quickly. "I've definitely worked a lot on my game and asked the coaching staff in the offseason what they wanted me to work on. Watched myself in games from last year where I know I should have done a lot better. Trying to be more clinical in areas that need that."

One of those areas of improvement coaches suggested was getting forward into the attack. His assist total and 8 shots in 13 games match his total from all of last year.

"I love when he comes inside, like when Bastian (Schweinsteiger) played that long ball to him so he's trying to finish the action in which we encourage him to be dangerous, to be our Roberto Carlos," Paunovic added. " ... He has a good engine, he's a fantastic guy, young man who has the desire and again he likes to listen to the guys in front and learn from them and respect them and he gives his best every game and we really appreciate that."

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