The Fire have equalled the all-time MLS record for consecutive winless games on the road (27 ties the 08-09 New York Red Bulls) but the numbers aren't all bad after a 0-0 draw in New York City. The team's third consecutive clean sheet and 356 minute run without allowing a goal is the second longest such streak in club history. The current longest shutout string in team history, 395 minutes, was established by the 2009 team that advanced to the Eastern Conference Final.
Veljko Paunovic started the same eleven that took the field last weekend against Philadelphia and came away with another point on the road. The defense has certainly been upgraded but problems persist on the offensive side without David Accam on the pitch. The Fire managed a meager 8 shots attempted against New York City FC and none were on target. Other than the controversially disallowed goal in the 60th minute, they did not register one single shot on target. They were able to muster two with a man advantage for one half against the Union.
That sort of production isn't good enough to win many games but the clean sheets and tactical improvement from last season are reasons for some optimism.
The Fire may not be at a level where they can be considered challengers for a playoff spot because of the lack of production in the final third but the arrows seem to be pointed in the right direction. How long Paunovic and the Fire can keep grinding out unattractive results before some help arrives remains the question.
GK Matt Lampson (7) - Forget the distribution and passing questions for this match. Lampson came up big on a few chances and didn't need the posts to help this week. Credited with 8 saves and some were pretty good. The diving stop of Villa's shot in the 29th was a good recovery after leaning in the wrong direction but 9 minutes later he denied Villa again after the forward found himself unmarked on a corner kick attempt. Stopped Villa yet again in the 83rd and and huge stop in the 84th denied him one more time. There were some shaky moments in a wild scramble in the 85th but the sequence ended with a good stop against Diskerud.
RB Rodrigo Ramos (6.5) - Another good showing from Ramos as he seems to be cementing the right back spot. Did well to stop Villa on a couple of runs down the right side in the first half. Passing at 19/30 could be better but he was involved positively on both ends.
CB Johan Kappelhof (7) - Named to MLS Team of the Week for his effort in the last match and he should get some consideration again. Kappelhof came up big to break up a handful of counter chances. Six interceptions, five clearances, and 21/29 passes is a god night.
CB Jonathan Campbell (6.5) - Making an early case for Rookie of the Year consideration with continued solid all around play. Seven clearances, two interceptions, no goals, although Villa did get behind him for the chance in the 84th.
LB Michael Harrington (6) - New York had some possession but didn't have much danger from the wings. Another good defensive team effort.
RM Arturo Alvarez (5) - A few decent moments in combination in the first half but the Fire couldn't stay onside early to capitalize. Wasted a clean look at goal in the 15th when he decided to one touch a pass instead of a shot. A free kick attempt in the 49th drew Saunders out deflected toward the net off of Gilberto. Connected on 17 of 24 passes but nothing was dangerous after the missed chance.
CM Michael Stephens (5.5) - The Fire completed 72% of their passes in this match and Stephens was better than average at 43 of 55, but there wasn't much getting forward. The team is missing a creative player in the middle of the pitch. Stephens call fill a roll but he's not a difference maker in that spot.
CM Matt Polster (6) - New York didn't have the run of the midfield as they did in the first game between these two. Polster was more under control in this game and plays a big part in helping the back line shut down the area in front of goal.
LM Kennedy Igboananike (5) - The Fire had ten shot attempts and Igboananike had none of them although he did provide that cross that landed on Alvarez's foot for the wasted chance in the 15th. Still has issues with the ball at his feet, creating his own chances, and playing in combinations.
FW Razvan Cocis (5) - He's miscast in the advanced role he's been given in the last two matches. Plays a decent field game but doesn't have the pace or vision to produce as an underneath forward. The shot attempts from Fire forwards in the game are telling. Although 28 of 33 passing is decent, note the lack of action in the final third.
FW Gilberto (5) - Also note where the Fire's leader in shot attempts for this match originated his tries. Maybe it's the lack of service but Gilberto simply isn't providing enough.
RM John Goossens (5.5) - Replaced Alvarez in the 59th and provided some spark again although none of it was particularly dangerous this time. Would probably be better suited in the spot that Cocis occupied.
CM Nick LaBrocca (5) - Subbed in for Polster in the 81st.
FW Alex Morrell (5) - Came in for Gilberto in the 83rd.