We're a mere four hours from watching the Fire take on the Red Bulls in what will be their first meaningful game since last November. I'm excited. It should be a great season for the Fire (I actually picked them to finish first in the Eastern Conference on MLSsoccer.com) and tonight should (hopefully) mark a great beginning.
I do have a gut feeling that we will see some lineup surprises tonight though. Again, it's nothing more than a hunch, but something tells me that the lineup Carlos de los Cobos runs out onto the Red Bull Arena field will leave a few people scratching their heads. I could be completely wrong though. As always, we'll just have to wait and see.
I'll likely be providing a little bit of commentary as the match moves along, so be sure to check back around game time for that. Feel free to use this post as your running commentary for tonight's match.
Commentary is after the jump.
The starting lineups have been released. Here they are:
DEF: Ward, Conde, Brown, Banner
MID: Pappa, Lowry, Pause, Martinez
FWD: McBride, Nyarko
DEF: Hall, Petke, Ream, Miller
MID: Borman, Lindpere, Ubiparipovic, Richards
FWD: Angel, Kandji
Very, very interesting lineup for the Fire. I'm very surprised not to see John in there. I thought de los Cobos would give him a run for sure. That said, Nyarko has proven that he is more than capable of playing at this level. He should be able to do fine.
I am a little worried about Banner though. He's not very proven defensively, and I've been told that he hasn't been practicing at left back in the preseason. He could have his hands full dealing with Angel, Kandji and Richards. His start shouldn't come as too much of a surprise though, as de los Cobos has expressed his concern about Krol's pace in the past.
I'm also very surprised to see Lowry get the start. You would think Thorrington would be automatic in the central midfield at this point in the year. He was listed as questionable on the Fire's pregame report though, maybe his injury (a left quad strain) is keeping him out.
The Fire certainly are opening themselves up for a lot of questions should they lose this game. It will be interesting.
The game is not on ESPN 2. It is on ESPN. Looks like a pretty weak crowd at Red Bull Arena. Kind of disappointing. Anyway, it's gametime.
Fire off to a shaky start. Dykstra clears the ball out of bounds.... for a corner kick. And Thorrington is out injured, not a tactical move to start Lowry.
Coundoul with a poor, poor clearance right out of bounds. Both keepers look incredibly shaky with their feet early on in the game.
Nyarko does well to pick Angel's pocket and thread a ball through to McBride, who can't put his shot on net.
The Red Bulls are applying some heavy pressure right now. Fortunately for the Fire, they haven't shot one on net...'
McBride comes tantalizingly close, putting a bicycle kick effort from the top of the box off of the left post. That would have been a fantastic goal.
Fire with a dangerous free kick opportunity, but Julio Martinez whacks the 30 yard kick way over the bar. Wasted free kick
Nyarko does well to pick out Pappa in the middle of the box, but Marco's first touch lets him down and he can't get a shot on net. And Dykstra gets his first save of the match. Pretty comfortable shot for Andrew to deal with.
GOAL NEW YORK. JOEL LINDPERE. Absolute blast from Lindpere off the half volley from the top of the 18. Great strike from Lindpere. Not a whole lot Dykstra -- or any keeper -- could have done. Bad giveaway in the back from Logan Pause that lead to the initial attack. Fire with some work to do now.
Bad half from the Fire. Apart from McBride hitting the post (which was a product of a poor New York clearance, rather than solid Fire buildup), the team was unable to generate any real chances. The attractive style of attacking we heard about all offseason was nonexistent. The defense was at times sloppy and disorganized. There was no real bite on either side of the ball. It was not good. The team has some work to do if they want to get a point from this match.
I wouldn't be too surprised if we saw a halftime substitution or two from the Fire. I personally wouldn't be opposed to seeing Collins John come on the field...
John will come in for Martinez. Nyarko will drop from forward into the midfield to replace Julio. Not the best debut for Martinez.
Baggio Husidic will come on for Pause. Did not like what I saw from Logan tonight. His passes were consistently weak and he left quite a few of his teammates out to dry with his distribution.
Banner with a very good strike on a 24 yard free kick. Coundoul comes up with the save though and he doesn't have any trouble with Baggio Husidic's follow up effort.
Nyarko hits a shot on goal but its nothing doing for the Ghanain attacker. He's probably been the best Fire player tonight though.
Justin Mapp comes on for Brian McBride. Not buying this one de los Cobos. Not buying it.
Full time, Fire 0 - New York 1:
Disappointing start for the season for the Fire, who fall 1-0 to the Red Bulls, last year's worst team. I wasn't a huge fan of some of the lineup decisions Head Coach Carlos de los Cobos made tonight (Mapp for McBride when you're down a goal? Really?), but ultimately the players didn't get the job done tonight. Not a good showing from the Fire, who created next to nothing in terms of real chances. Very, very disappointing.
I'll be back with a full match report later on. Until then, feel free to share your disappointment in the comments section below.