After last week's litany of break downs the Fire regrouped and looked a bit more like the side that finished preseason undefeated. Playing a man down for an hour forced a change in the 3-5-2 formation that struggled to start the game and forced a more compact and disciplined effort. The shift to a more defensive posture resulted in another lopsided possession total (65-35 to Orlando), but the Fire were able to dodge enough bullets and remain dangerous enough on the counter to take a well earned point out of their first road game of the season.
The game started ominously with Cyle Larin giving the home side an early lead in the fourth minute. The second year player found a small gap in the three man back line and executed a perfectly place shot into the upper corner of the goal. Matt Lampson, making his second consecutive start of the season ahead of Sean Johnson, had little chance to stop it.
The Fire's main offensive weapon over the last two seasons, a long ball over the top to David Accam, proved to be successful again. His pure speed will continue keep defenders honest and tripping over themselves to catch him. That was the case again as Accam raced onto a long pass from John Goossens that originated from inside the Fire's "18" and left Seb Hines scrambling to cover. The 14th minute finish leveled the game and was enough to earn the Fire their first point of 2016.
There were still areas of concern. Passing was less than spectacular again at 71% and the Fire caught a break by not having to face Orlando City with Kaka in the line-up but some of the reasons for optimism that manifested themselves in preseason were on display here. An overall team effort resulted in a point under difficult circumstances.
The Fire will equal the all-time MLS record for consecutive games without a win on the road (27) if they can't defeat New York City FC on April 10 at Yankee Stadium, but first they've got Columbus and Philadelphia at home with an off-week sandwiched in between.
GK Matt Lampson (6.5) – A strong bounce back game after last week’s shaky start. Lampson justified Paunovic’s decision to stay with him in this match. There wasn’t much he could have done with Larin’s dart in the 4th minute but he did come up big on several other occasions. Quality saves on Molino in the 25th and Winter in the 56th kept the game level. Got a piece of Larin’s ball in the 79th to push it off the post. Confident off his line on several occasions.
D Johan Kappelhof (6) – Steady all night for the most part although Larin did have a chance or two late while matched up directly. Almost helped on a second goal in the 41st when his touch across the goal mouth just missed Igboananike. Did he get away with an arm-bar take down in second half stoppage time?
D Jonathan Campbell (6) – Rookie got a start in the middle of a three-man back line and played well enough while Orlando enjoyed the bulk of possession. Turned around a bit on Larin’s goal allowing just enough space for a shot. Otherwise good on the night.
D Joao Meira (6) – The back line stayed focused and kept its shape after the red card. Meira managed to clear several chances and blocked two shots from inside the area.
M Brandon Vincent (6) – Dropped to the back after starting on the wing in the 3-5-2 alignment that opened the match. Played team game well in defending after the red card.
M John Goossens (6) – His forty yard ball over the top in the 14th allowed Accam to run onto it and dust defenders on the way to his score. A classy chip pass to Kappelhof in the 69th led to the Kappelhof/Igboananike chance. Did well in helping defend when needed at the sacrifice of getting forward more often.
M Matt Polster (6) – Wore the armband and kept his composure, particularly after the Fire were down to ten men. There are still some missteps, such as the unnecessary yellow in 28th and a bad pass here and there, but did well to conduct a team defensive effort to preserve the point.
M Arturo Alvarez (5.5) – A shot in the 5th was just wide and a good run into the box in the 30th went unrewarded but there were also a handful of turnovers leading to Orlando chances.
M Michael Harrington (4.5) – The kung-fu tackle that led to the straight red card was downright ridiculous but he did contribute some offensively while he was on the pitch. A cross in the 9th minute was headed just high by Igboananike. Another cross in the 26th was headed off the post by Accam. His touch to clear the ball found Goossens in the 14th leading to the Fire score.
F Kennedy Igboananike (5.5) – Didn’t score but provided a good effort. Header in the 9th was tipped over the bar by Bendik for a corner kick. Another header in 17th missed. Get the sense he could have done more if not for playing a man down.
F David Accam (6.5) – Blew by Hines in the 14th to level the game and caused havoc throughout as the Fire played the counter continuously. Headed ball in the 26th almost gave the Fire a lead but hit the post. Just missed again in second half stoppage time.
M Razvan Cocis (5.5) – Entered the match in place of Goossens in the 72nd. A step slow to close down Ribeiro in the 78th as his shot glanced off the outside of the post from distance.
F Joey Calistri (5) – Replaced Igboananike in the 83rd and didn’t figure into much as defending for a counter to Accam seemed to be the plan for closing out the match.
M Rodrigo Ramos (6) – Subbed in for Alvarez in the 87th and provided some good moments. A sliding block of Shea’s cross attempt in the 89th and an excellent link up with Accam down the right side of the field in the 95th almost provided the second goal.