Despite loss, Scheelhaase happy to play a full game

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Despite loss, Scheelhaase happy to play a full game

CHAMPAIGN If there is one positive Illini fans can take away from the teams 35-7 loss to Penn State, it's quarterback Nathan Scheelhaases four quarters of football.

For the first time this season the junior was able to captain the Illinois offense for all 60 minutes. After going down with an ankle injury in the season opener against Western Michigan it has been a been uphill battle for Scheelhaase.

Last week, against Louisiana Tech, Scheelhaase was under center at the start of the game but did not make it through the first quarter, being pulled in favor of sophomore Reilly OToole. After OTooles dynamic performance against Charleston Southern, the Illini appeared to have a quarterback controversy on their hands.

With four quarters of play on Saturday, however, Scheelhaase has reasserted his claim as the Illinois quarterback and after the game said he was feeling like his old self again.

The ankle is doing well, it felt real good today. I got nipped a little bit, but I was okay, Scheelhaase said. I felt good on the plays I ran on and I got loose on a couple of scrambles as well. It was good to feel that I was moving better.

Against Penn State, the junior was 28 of 46 for 270 yards and ran for another 22 yards. He was not flawless, giving up a pair of interceptions to Nittany Lions linebacker Michael Mauti, but he felt good about his play.

There was one scary moment for Scheelhaase early in the second half, when he was hit high and low by Penn State linemen in the backfield. The junior stayed on the ground for a minute before limping off the field. He would only sit out one play, however, before returning to his spot behind center.

That was as bad a hit as you could probably get on it and I was able to bounce back, so that was good, Scheelhaase said. When you can get what you hurt hit and bounce back that means youre back where you need to be.

He added that he felt as good on his runs as he has all season, which was a big encouragement.

Coach Tim Beckman was also happy with the performance of his quarterback, especially his recovery from the big hit.

Im proud of Nathan. Nathans fighting through an injury and hes trying to help this football team the best way he possibly can, Beckman said.

Moving forward Scheelhaase does not foresee a problem being under center. He does, however, expect better from himself and his team than how they played against Penn State.

Thats the bottom line: we didnt do enough to win the game. We have a tough test next week against Wisconsin and we have to come ready to play. That has to be the mindset of everyone, weve got to get ready for the next one, Scheelhaase said.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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