The Fire were doused with a humbling bit of reality in New York as they failed to push New York City FC out of the Eastern Conference title race and instead allowed them to come within a point of pushing Chicago into third place. To make matters worse, NYCFC was able to earn all three points while playing a man down for 78 minutes. Yangel Herrera's second yellow card in the 12th minute presented Chicago with a perfect opportunity to take control of the match and reclaim the top spot in the East.
That control never came about. Instead New York City FC continued on for most of the first half as if the ejection never happened. The Fire were able to put 25 shots on frame but a good chunk of those were hopeful long distance attempts that weren't close. It wasn't until well into the second half that the Fire showed some urgency and put some pressure on NYCFC but the hosts had already taken a 2-0 lead.
The Fire struggled again to find answers against an opponent playing a man down. The first big test of the second half as serious contenders was anything less than a success. The Fire will need to win a significant road game(s) a some point this season if they are to keep pace with Toronto and stay ahead of NYCFC. This was a clearly blown opportunity to capitalize on some good fortune as they were also fortunate to avoid a 4th minute penalty kick call that would have put them down early.
The importance of Dax McCarty was also evident in this match but that should not come as an easy excuse. Toronto FC picked up a point in the same building on Wednesday night while playing without Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Justin Morrow, Jonathan Osorio, Tosaint Ricketts, Armando Cooper, Steven Beitashour, and Nick Hagglund. Giovinco also left in the first half with an injury.
Another big test comes next weekend in Kansas City.
GK Matt Lampson (5) - Slow to react on Villa's goal and gave up a rebound for the second NYCFC score. Clearly outshone by his counterpart on the other side who faced 25 shots and made several key saves keeping his team in position for the win. There were bigger issues than goalkeeper in this game however. Did have one save of some quality in the 15th.
D Michael Harrington (5) - The quality in drop off from Brandon Vincent, who suffered a quad strain in warm-ups, was clearly evident. There weren't any glaring mistakes but service wasn't up to par and he Villa did find space between him and Juninho on the first goal.
D Johan Kappelhof (5) - Fortunate not to have been hit with a penalty kick foul in the 4th minute after tripping Herrera in the box. His deflected shot in the 45th was the Fire's best chance of the first half but it was saved acrobatically by Sean Johnson.
D Joao Meira (4.5) -Faked to the ground by Lewis on the first goal and beaten to the spot by Brilliant on the second goal. Did have a decent sequence or two in defending Villa.
D Matt Polster (4.5) - Struggled with Lewis, particularly in the first half and seldom got forward enough to help in the attack as he typically has done.
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (4.5) - Lost the ball in the 4th leading to Herrera's run and no-call in the box. Not as crisp in his touches or passes as he usually is. The Fire held possession (65-35) as they should with a man advantage but didn't do much with it. Couldn't get much going offensively against a ten-man squad. Seemingly lost the ball more in this match than he has for the entirety of his Fire career to date.
M Juninho (4.5) - Vacated the area in front of Villa giving him space to find the first NYCFC goal. Chicago didn't have many ideas for getting the ball out of midfield and onto the feet of attackers. Something is clearly lost when McCarty is not in the line-up. Hit the goal post with a long shot in the 92nd.
M Luis Solignac (4.5) - Couldn't find much room or flow in the match despite the advantage. The Fire struggle against teams packing it in because they don't have width on the outside or anyone capable of breaking down a defense with the ball. The evolution of this game was not a match for Solignac's skillset.
M Michael de Leeuw (4.5) - Since he's not a creator, his role this season has been one of support and work. That doesn't come through as well when the player in front of the backline aren't on top of their games. The Fire need more from de Leeuw in games like this one.
M Arturo Alvarez (5.5) - The Fire's best option in attack for much of the match. Tried to create and get some service in but close calls didn't get any more significant than just that. Made a chance for Nikolic in the 65th, forced a good save in the 72nd, and also involved as the Fire for an equalizer late.
F Nemanja Nikolic (5) - Clear cut chances weren't there but did try to make something out of those that he did get. Best chance came on a backheel attempt that was blocked by defenders after Johnson had come out to cut down the angle on Alvarez in the 65th.
M David Accam (6) - Entered the match to start the second half in replacement of Solignac. Scored a screamer after a loose ball came his way following a cleared corner kick chance. His shot in the 54th hit the crossbar and came down over the goal line. Continued to provide a glimmer of hope but another shot was well saved by Johnson in the 92nd. There can be little justification, outside of injury for Accam not starting this game.
M Djordje Mihailovic (5) - Came on for Polster in the 54th. Something can be said about placing HGP's into a game of this nature but something else can also be said for the Fire's lack of depth which would call for HGP's to be placed into this game.
M Daniel Johnson (5) - Subbed in for de Leeuw in the 69th. See comments above and replace HGP with rookie. Active and forced a save in the 78th but also ran himself out of position with teammates attacking the box on more than one occasion.