BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – As Veljko Paunovic reflected on the Chicago Fire’s 1-1 tie with reigning MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers, the Fire coach praised the on-field connection between David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike, even as he insisted his team needs to show more improvement in the offensive third.
Coming into the game with just two wins, the Men in Red moved to 12 points (2-5-5) with an impressive display built on sound defense and a serious threat on the counter attack thanks largely to the pace and skill of Accam and Igboananike.
The pair combined for the Fire’s 20th-minute equalizer, Igboananike showing patience and vision squaring a ball for the ever-menacing Accam to slot home from close range ensuring the home side responded in a timely fashion to Diego Valeri’s opportunist opener two minutes earlier.
“I think it’s one of the best performances that we’ve had this season,” Paunovic said. “Of course, we’re getting better, as we said, and the only thing, you get what you deserve at the end.
“I think we can say maybe we had a great game, but you have to win the game, we have to learn to do that.”
The Fire were well deserving of their point, and on another day perhaps they could have taken all three. Despite losing the possession battle 57 to 43 percent, the hosts created significantly more chances than the Timbers, 17 (6 on target) to the visitors’ 8 (2). Portland goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was in impressive form, so the Fire had to be content with the tie which keeps them bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Accam and Igboananike were central to everything good the Fire did, causing the Timbers backline several anxious moments during a game that Portland head coach Caleb Porter admitted his side did not deserve to win.
“Of course, it’s a part of the plan,” Paunovic said. “What we are looking for is to have associations in the team, and the two of them work very well together.
“You could see that in the first game when David was fit, David is very important, not only because of his individual quality, but because he improves our team and our team feels better on the field offensively with more potential.”
While the Fire were the better chance creators on the night, their poor passing played a role in giving up so much possession. In the attacking third their accuracy went down to 67 percent, the connections between players on the attack not nearly as solid as they need to be.
“On that side we have to improve more, more associations between our guys where we can connect better, we can create and be more dangerous and I believe that’s the process."