CHICAGO, Ill. – Veljko Paunovic says that the Chicago Fire are in no hurry to find a replacement for departed Homegrown favorite Harry Shipp.
Head coach Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez have come under fire for the swift and controversial manner in which Shipp, a much-loved local boy from Lake Forest, Ill., was told he no longer had a future at his boyhood club and that he would be moving to Eastern Conference rival Montreal Impact.
And while the Serbian gave assurances that “The Plan” was on track and that another European-based midfielder was on their radar, he insisted that they were in no rush to bring someone in just yet, even though the start of the season less than three weeks away.
“We are not going to hurry to do anything at this point,” Paunovic said on Tuesday’s media conference call. “We have a situation where we created a spot where the guys we have on the roster right now have to look to fulfill that spot, and fulfill the place in the team as a favorite player on the field for our fans. We think that we created a very interesting dynamic in the roster where the guys that we have right now have to fight for that spot.”
Who might step into that creative, probing, No. 10 role is unclear at this point, although the emergence of fellow Chicagoan Collin Fernandez, 19, could make him an option to fill Shipp’s sizeable boots.
Paunovic is expected to adopt a high-pressing, high-tempo game plan this coming season, and it seems that Shipp’s more patient and calculated style might not be a match for the Serb’s tactics.
“I think that’s the first reason,” Paunovic said when asked if Shipp would fit into the new style. “The technical reason is why we decided to do that. The style of play and for what we are looking for further in that position. It’s something that we decided was very important. The first thing is a technical decision, but we are always looking for the best possible solution. If there weren’t a team interested in him, it would be different.”
A two-year MLS veteran with deep connections to the club, Shipp was one of the Fire's elder statesmen on day one of preseason, and Rodriguez had earmarked him as a player who could assume a leadership role for the Men in Red. Following his departure, Paunovic is confident that others can inspire the team in what promises to be an exciting season for all at Toyota Park.
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“Right now we have veteran guys like Razvan [Cocis], like Eric Gehrig,” he acknowledged. “People who have experience in the league and people who have played and understand very well the values of Chicago Fire and our team. Also with [David] Accam, with Kennedy [Igboananike], those guys are very important for our locker room. We’re looking further to see if the new guys who came in like Joao Meira, like [Johan] Kappelhof, who just came yesterday, can bring us another style of leadership with their experience and obviously a style of playing soccer in Europe.”
“With Razvan, and with Sean [Johnson], they’re experienced guys,” he added. “What we are looking for from them is that we want them to be the example. We want them to represent the best values of our team, and the team we are building.”