The 2016 season is off to an inauspicious start following a successful preseason that fostered some positive sentiment. A questionable goalkeeping change and an even more dubious team defensive performance left the Fire with a loss to another side attempting to recoup from a disastrous 2015.
Former Crew goalkeeper Matt Lampson was given the nod in goal over Sean Johnson in what Veljko Paunovic called a "day by day move" after a good outing against the Timbers to close the Simple Invitational tournament. He didn't have much help from a back line and midfield that hasn't played together for more than a few weeks. New York City FC's press exploited that, particularly in the first half. Paunovic said after the match that Lampson "did very well" despite the results.
The Fire created enough chances to win or tie this game but that shouldn't be any consolation against a team that they should have been able to beat at home. NYCFC struggled as badly as the Fire did defensively although they did control possession over the course of the match by a wide 60-40 margin. Passing was not very good overall for the home team either with a meager 65% accuracy total after ninety minutes.
Chicago won't have the positive vibes of preseason to fall back on if they fall into yet another early season hole. It's only one game, and the goal barrage may have provided some entertainment, but the need for improvement is obvious.
They'll have a chance to regroup on Friday in Orlando. The Lions scored twice in stoppage time to draw 2-2, against a 10-man Real Salt Lake to open their season.
GK Matt Lampson (4) - Paunovic is faced with his first big decision of the early season after choosing Lampson over Sean Johnson for the opener. Lampson did nothing to quiet the first guessers with a howler of a start. The main reason for choosing Lampson apparently was because of his distribution and ability to help play the ball out of the back. The wind was somewhat of a factor in the first half but that part of his game was lacking over the first 45. There was also that "attempt" to stop Shelton's shot on the third NY goal. He did have a good save in stoppage time, so there's that.
D Brandon Vincent (4) - Lost Shelton, resulting in that third goal. Sucked in on the fourth goal. A few decent crosses but plenty of room to improve.
D Joao Meira (4) - His failed clearance in the 30th minute resulted in a boot to Michael Harrington's face and the second NYCFC score. Everyone seemed lost on the fourth goal.
D Johan Kappelhof (4.5) - No one on the starters on the back line wearing red distinguished themselves. Nice stop on Diskerud late and a chip in the 67th from a loose ball almost found the goal.
D Michael Harrington (4.5) - Moved into midfield when the Fire shifted to a 3-5-2 formation to start the second half. No glaring individual lapses but the entire defense struggled for most of the match.
M Matt Polster (4) - As talented as Polster is, one of his drawbacks last season was the inability to pick and choose when the right time to commit forward should be. Lunging into space, leaving voids in front of the back line was an issue last season and it surfaced again today. Charged upfield with defenders behind him to get a piece of the ball in the 10th minute while his mark was left unattended. No one picked up his mark, Tommy McNamara, who found acres of space and plenty of time to put NYCFC ahead with a golazo as a result. Collapsed to the ground in the 64th after getting beat by McNamara, who crossed the ball into the box finding Diskerud wide open for the eventual game winner.
M Razvan Cocis (4) - Settled in behind Polster during his run up in the 10th but didn't get over in time to cover McNamara. Also lost on the Diskerud goal in the 64th. Did well to score with a goal of his own in the 19th minute, as the Fire caught NYCFC playing a high line.
M Arturo Alvarez (4.5) - Assisted on Cocis' goal but can be seen jogging in the vicinity as McNamara sauntered through a vacant midfield to score his goal. Did contribute with some decent combination play. Corner kick duties where fair. Handball and PK call in the 71st came from corner kick chance.
M Kennedy Igboananike (5.5) - Scored the Fire's second goal in the 49th and provided some energy although playing out wide isn't ideal for him.
M David Accam (6) - Scored the third goal on a PK and created and assisted on Igboananike's tally. Created numerous chances but failed to finish on a few. His pace alone results in nightmares for defenders and chances for the Fire but finishing has to be better from those opportunities.
F Gilberto (5) - Played the first 45 minutes before being substituted with an apparent calf knock. Should have done better with a chance in the 2nd minute. Also had another good opportunity catching Saunders out of his net in the 28th but his shot hit the side of the net. Could have had a PK call of his own in the 12th when a jersey tug from behind kept him from getting a shot off inside the area.
D Jonathan Campbell (5) - Replaced Gilberto and was slotted into the back in a 3-5-2 to begin the second half. Fair performance as the Fire were somewhat better defensively in the second half.
D Rodrigo Ramos (4.5) - Replaced Harrington in the 66th. A bad pass resulted in an NYCFC chance in stoppage time that resulted in Lampson's good save on the day.
M Joey Calistri (5) - Subbed in for Cocis in the 81st and had a few decent touches.