Veljko Paunovic laments Chicago Fire's defense, transfer search continues

Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic did not mince words after Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Seattle Sounders.

He started by saying the Fire were beaten by a “better team,” then turned to how the Eastern Conference side defended. All four of Seattle’s goals resulted from flank play, and right back Nicolas Hasler, playing on the left, was even subbed out in the 35th minute.

“Obviously it’s not good. It’s not good at all,” Paunovic said about his team’s defense. “We’ll keep working and try to fix it. We have now two weeks to do a better job on that and prepare the team for the next hard game we have at home and a must-win game.”

Chicago have two weeks off until hosting the New York Red Bulls on March 30 (1 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+, MLS LIVE on DAZN), but Paunovic conceded that the solution might not already be in the locker room.

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Earlier this week, MLSsoccer.com’s Sam Stejskal reported that the Fire were "unable to close on" Swedish center back Joakim Nilsson and now are looking to land other targets. Paunovic stoked the flames of that pursuit on Saturday.

“That’s something we’re aware of and we’re working on,” Paunovic said about the transfer market. “As we’ve said in the past, it’s not easy to sign players. We’re working on that. We’re aware and I agree we have to fix our defense.”

This past offseason, the club signed Brazilian center back Marcelo from Portuguese side Sporting CP and also re-signed Johan Kappelhof to a TAM deal.

There’s also a new goalkeeper in David Ousted, who has previously played with D.C. United and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. In years past, legendary German midfielder and Designated Player Bastian Schweinsteiger has played at center back to varying degrees of success, largely as a stopgap solution.

As those pieces come together, Chicago are yet to record a shutout through three matches of the 2019 season. Even in the Seattle game, Chicago won the shot battle 25-10, but lapses in focus did the home side in.

“As a team we have to improve in defense,” Paunovic said. “And I think the discipline is something I have to mention that is not always there. That’s the biggest thing I’m upset about our performance today.”


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