BRIDGEVIEW, Ill.—Given the lift David Accam provided the Chicago Fire as a second-half sub, the club's fans couldn't be blamed for wondering what might have been with the Fire's leading scorer in the starting lineup of what ended up a 2-1 loss to Toronto FC on Saturday at Toyota Park.
Perhaps things would have turned out his club's way, manager Veljko Paunovic acknowledged, but he still had no regrets about keeping Accam off the pitch until the 56th minute.
The Fire trailed 2-0 at that point, and just two minutes after Accam came on as part of a switch to a 4-3-3 formation, his run through the defense led to Michael de Leeuw's header that pulled Chicago within a goal. They could get no closer, though, in their first home defeat since April 16.
Accam’s pace and trickery showed themselves to full effect on the goalscoring sequence, as he sped past Michael Bradley and broke into the box, before the ball somehow found its way from John Goossens to de Leeuw’s head and then into the net.
“I feel great and for me I was happy to go on the pitch to help the team, but it wasn’t enough,” Accam said. “For me personally, I feel really good.”
Could the Fire have benefitted from Accam's energetic play and a three-forward setup earlier? Maybe, Paunovic said -- but then again, Accam was coming off overseas international duty with Ghana, and Chicago started the same XI from last weekend's 3-0 victory over Philadelphia.
'That’s something that we can’t go back and regret because the decision was common," Paunovic said. "We spoke before the game, David said that after the break with the national team and a long travel that he didn’t feel like to start and that’s it.
“We want our guys to participate in the decisions, especially in this kind of (situation) where it matters how his physical state (is) and that’s it,” he added. “For sure, we are very happy with the guys who played, the guys who did the game made this game at least that we can expect goals, opportunities and entertainment.”
Accam hopes to be back in the XI on Friday against D.C. United, but also also knows it's not entirely his call.
“I think I’m always ready," Accam said. "The next game will depend on the coach, what he thinks and for me I’m always ready when the coach tells me to go on the pitch. It mostly depends on the coach what formation or tactics he wants to use, so I’m good.”
Despite the defeat, the Fire's late rally pleased their manager.
“Still a lot of optimism because I think we did great today," Paunovic added. “The game was fantastic. We pushed for the game, we wanted to win, from the first second of the game. When we look back where we were at the start of the season and where we are now we can see that the team has improved way, way better.
"Now we look like a team, we play like a team and we really compete. It was tough for us to lose this game and we wouldn’t even be happy if we had tied the game at the end.”