Fire defeat San Jose, but Paunovic not happy with performance

Updated 6/2/2018 11:30 PM

The Chicago Fire won a game it should have won Saturday night against a bad team, but coach Veljko Paunovic roasted his players anyway.

The Fire won at home for just the third time in eight games Saturday night at Toyota Park, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-1.

A question about the play of Aleksandar Katai set Paunovic off in the postgame news conference.

"I'm not happy with the performance," Paunovic said. "I'm not happy with especially that play when we conceded a goal, I'm not happy with how we behaved, how we treated our opponent. And the lack of seriousness, the lack of professionalism."

The Earthquakes (2-8-4, 9 points) have not been good this season, but they made the game interesting when Danny Hoesen scored in the 74th minute to cut the Fire lead to 2-1.

"And I told the guys and I speak with them Monday and especially individuals will hear me out. I'm a competitor and if I see that somebody is not competing in that locker room, you'd better change or you're not going to be here," Paunovic added, not naming anyone.

"And I'm very serious with this. When I saw what I saw today in the last 15-20 minutes, I was sick. I was really sick. And if that happens again, I'm not going to be here or somebody else is not going to be here."

Paunovic made it clear he wasn't talking about forward Alan Gordon, who opened the scoring in the 29th minute off a Luis Solignac assist. Katai scored to make it 2-0 in the 49th minute off a Brandt Bronico assist.

The 3 points isn't enough to move the Fire (5-7-2, 17 points) out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but it did move the club within 2 points of sixth-place Orlando City SC, keeping the team within shouting distance of a playoff berth with 20 matches to play this season.

"We suffered and we are going to keep suffering," Paunovic said. "The next month or so we still have to recover some players and that's going to be helpful, but we have now a stretch of games that are coming very one after another. That's going to be challenging for us."

The Fire lost starting goalkeeper Patrick McLain to injury in the 44th minute. McLain was starting his third straight game after appearing to have won the job from Richard Sanchez, who replaced him. Paunovic was not optimistic about the McLain injury, though he did not have a medical report on him.

The Fire opens U.S. Open Cup play Wednesday at Columbus.

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