CHICAGO, Ill. – They spent time with two vastly different teams in different countries, but David Accam and Collin Fernandez are hoping their offseason training stints in Europe pay big dividends for the Chicago Fire in 2016.
Accam, the Fire’s 2015 Player of the Year, spent one week training with Premier League side Stoke City in December, while second-year midfielder Fernandez enjoyed two weeks with La Liga’s Villarreal at the end of the year.
While both players are at different stages in their careers, both extracted significant positives from their experiences, which they hope can translate to an improved 2016 for the Fire, who finished bottom of the MLS pile last season.
“I … went there to look around and see their facilities,” Accam told reporters this week. “I had a week training, and everything went really well. To be fair, I just needed to keep myself fit because we had a long offseason, so I just went there to keep myself fit.”
The 25-year-old, who sported a sleek new haircut on his return to Chicago, believes he impressed the Stoke coaching staff and certainly felt he could compete at that level.
“Yeah, for sure, because I was there, I saw everything,” Accam said. “I trained with the guys, all the coaches were impressed, but at the moment I’m here, and I don’t want to look back at what happened. I’m here, I want to start the season going.
“Last year was tough because I wasn’t 100 percent fit and at the moment I feel good. I still need to work harder to get to my level where I can be.”
And while there were rumors linking him with a move from Chicago, Accam insisted he is focused on the Fire.
“I just want to keep doing well,” he said. “If I keep doing well, there will be teams that will be after you, and throughout my career that’s what I’ve done. Every season there are teams that are interested, and at the moment I’m still here.”
Homegrown midfielder Fernandez, 18, played just six minutes for the Men in Red last season. But given new head coach Veljko Paunovic’s youthful transformation of the roster, the Downers Grove, Ill., native could make a bigger impact this year.
His two weeks in Spain has given him the confidence to know he can compete with the best.
“It was a great experience,” Fernandez, who is pursuing his Peruvian citizenship to keep his options open on the international front, told MLSsoccer.com. “It was very small, technical activities during training, so I thought I got a lot out of it because that’s the type of player I am. I got to train with the 19s the first week, and the second week I trained with the C and B teams, which are under the first team, so it was an awesome experience.”
- Get more Fire news at Chicago-Fire.com
Fernandez, a tidy and energetic midfielder, also played four games on loan to USL side Louisville City FC last year, and has been involved with US U-14, U-17 and U-18 rosters. But given his heritage, he admitted he would be honored to represent Peru if the opportunity arose.
“The option has come up; I’m applying to get my citizenship in Peru, so it’s definitely an option for me,” he said. “And it would be an honor to play for the Peruvian national team and to wear the red and white.”