Fire GM: Team 'in a good position' despite struggles

Updated 8/15/2017 7:17 PM
  • Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick against Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann during the second half of an MLS match in June at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

    Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolic celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick against Atlanta United goalkeeper Alec Kann during the second half of an MLS match in June at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. Associated Press

When your team has lost three of its last four games and fallen to third place from second, this is how you begin a regularly scheduled meeting with the media:

"It's been an interesting few weeks since the (Gold Cup) break," Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said Tuesday. "Admittedly we have not regained the form that we took into the break, and it's been a whole new set of tests for us."

Read this as an understanding that the Fire needs to figure things out and improve to win a trophy, but it's a long way from panic.

"What we have to remind ourselves of is that currently we are in a good position. We are in a position where we control our destiny," Rodriguez added.

Rodriguez talked about a variety of subjects during his media roundtable to mark the season's two-thirds' mark.

On forward Nemanja Nikolic's five-game scoring drought:

"Nemanja does his best work in the box," Rodriguez said, adding he doesn't agree that the team can't score if Nikolic doesn't score. "One thing that has not been as consistent or as much quality is our delivery of the ball to Nemanja in and around the area. That is a phase of the game that we have definitely not recovered since the break."

On the team's inability to score on set pieces:

"We've got to get better on set pieces. I think we're the only team in the league not to score on set pieces, not counting PKs," Rodriguez said.

On picking up the 2018 contract option for forward David Accam:

"What David always expressed was that he was just looking for some clarity for his near-term future," Rodriguez said. "

Rodriguez noted that foreign clubs did make offers for Accam.

"In the end I think David has always enjoyed his time with us," Rodriguez added. "I think he appreciates that we have been able to put some pieces around him that have allowed more of his talents to flourish."

On tired players:

Rodriguez said the team will not try to manage players' minutes to keep them rested for the final 11 games of the regular season.

"As soon as you start to get into looking ahead to manage minutes because you want to save a guy for a next game or something, you've lost sight of the game in front of you and now you're probably on a losing streak of your own doing," Rodriguez said, noting the Fire, while in a very good position, has not clinched a playoff spot.

On the All-Star Game, which the Fire hosted earlier this month at Soldier Field:

"For me the proudest moment that came out of the All-Star Game was Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel saying, and I think this is a direct quote: 'This city is a better place because of the Chicago Fire,' and I think that speaks to all that we want to be as a club."

On MLS expanding to other Midwestern cities:

"If we can fill in the middle of the country a little bit and preserve some travel miles, I think that would be a good thing," he said.

Rodriguez said he hopes the Fire can develop a nice rivalry with first-year MLS club Minnesota United, though they are in different conferences and play only once a season.

"How that plays out ... will be interesting," he said.

On the club's 20th anniversary:

A club supporters group is hosting a celebration Oct. 8 at the Chicago Cultural Center, and Rodriguez said he would like to see the club more involved in it.

Several former Fire players have committed to attend, and a source said former Bulgarian international Hristo Stoichkov will be announced as the next former player to commit to attending the celebration.

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