The Chicago Fire got off to a franchise-worst 0-3-0 start after dropping a 2-1 decision to San Jose Sunday. While it is easy to lament the squad as a whole, there was a mix of good and bad. And because this is the Internet, we must rank those individual performances! Now, it's not always easy to come up with an orderly list of best player to worst player, but I enjoy the challenge and will do my best to convince you my opinions are indeed flawless.
If you saw the game in any other way than I did or thought a player was either better or worse than what I list here, chances are you are very, very wrong.
XI: Harry Shipp: The super sophomore was so good Sunday that Alexi Lalas actually said Shipp was too good to be on the Fire. Through the first three games, it is hard to disagree. Shipp opened the team's scoring in the 2015 season after receiving a great pass from Joevin Jones near the top of the box before sending a low shot across the goal to beat David Bingham. Shipp had a couple other opportunities he failed to finish, but when this team is operating properly, he shouldn't need to be a clinical finisher. If he was on a better team as Lalas suggested, Shipp would likely have multiple assists through three games with the way he has played.
X: Joevin Jones: Only played one half of soccer and was still clearly the second-best player for the Fire. Playing in an advanced position, Jones provided all the offense we love to see from him without making us fret about loose marking as a left back. As mentioned above, he was one of the few players who actually made a forward pass with intent and it paid off. His vision to Shipp was key to setting up the goal and I believe he could have created even more chances had he not been subbed off. Jones had a great attempt at goal in the first that Bingham denied. He also drew a penalty right outside of the box that led to a Maloney free kick on target. It was a promising performance, especially with Patrick Nyarko still out.
IX: David Accam: It took all of 60 seconds to see the difference David Accam can make for this team. The Ghanaian displayed the legitimacy of his elite status straight away, opening up space for other players and giving the offense room to breathe. He was integral in pressuring San Jose in its own half and helped create a succession of chances at the beginning of the second half and again near the end. He faded a bit during moments, but it is understandable for a man playing his first game in months. I never rank substitutes as a rule generally, but he was too influential in his 45 minutes to omit. He is desperately needed and I hope he is ready to start Sunday against Philadelphia.
VIII: Eric Gehrig: First things first, he should not be a right back. He just doesn't have the pace to cover speedy wingers or the amount of space necessary. But he should be commended for a strong performance Sunday. Sure, he got nutmegged by Innocent Emeghara, but he also had a tremendous header off a Maloney corner that missed high and a few defensive recoveries, including a crucial sweeping clearance in the box that saved a goal. Gehrig has earned his place on the field and he could make that same crucial clearance and that strong header attempt as a center back. Move him back inside Frank!
VII: Lovel Palmer: He was his usual steady self in the fairly uncomfortable role of left back. Palmer defended well throughout the game and tried to push up in the offense as well as he could. He sent the pass to Jones that eventually led to Shipp's goal, but Palmer is not a natural left back. He takes extra time to set up his crosses and the delivery just isn't as crisp when he is on his preferred right side. There is no reason Yallop can't keep Palmer on the right side and I hope to see him back there next week. He can be consistently relied on and an offensive help when he is there.
VI: Quincy Amarikwa: It was the same positives and negatives we've come to expect from Mr. Hustle. Amarikwa brought the energy and passion, but he also frustratingly missed his chances. A chance in the 50th minute summarized Amarikwa's predicament nicely. He had the speed and athleticism to get off on the break, but he missed a shot high at the near post when he could have made his attempt to the far post or passed back to a trailing teammate. Even if the near post was his confident choice, he needs to at least put it on frame. He was involved in a nifty little Larentowicz-Accam-Gehrig-Quincy-Shipp connection in the second half. For real, the Fire created a chance in five passes. It was a cool idea I hope to see more often.
V: Matt Polster: We wanted a guy who could make life difficult for opposing midfielders and Polster certainly can do that. He is very much a destroyer, but it is clear he is a rookie. He once again attempted some reckless challenges that led to a yellow card and made some errant passes, but at the same time he made sure the Earthquakes knew he was there and they would need to fight for their space. He has plenty of potential but I am not convinced he should be a starter. With Perez on the way, Polster could receive some needed education on how to play the position at this level and be a valuable option off the bench. Still, sins of aggression are much more welcomed than sins of complacency.
IV: Shaun Maloney: His set-piece delivery was back on track Sunday including his best corner of the season that was extremely close to resulting in a goal. But our favorite Scot was promised to be a difference maker, perhaps THE difference maker on this squad and he has been far from it. He still finds himself deep on the pitch too often and when he does have the ball he is struggling to produce chemistry with anyone. I know new pieces can take time to gel, but when you look around the league almost every team is ahead of the Fire in that department, whether it is Giovinco in Toronto or Aristeguieta in Philadelphia; new additions are making an impact. The Fire need Maloney playing at a much higher level. Time with his national team could help.
III: Jeff Larentowicz: Like Maloney, much more should be expected of the Fire captain. The defense was not porous but this is the second year in a row this team has had atrocious set-piece defending and Larentowicz needs to be the one who is leading the communication along with Sean Johnson. The two goals conceded were off a free kick and corner kick and both times the Fire looked panicked in the box as they scrambled to clear the ball any way they could. It needs to be sorted out and Larentowicz needs to take responsibility as the captain and center back of the squad.
II: Adailton: Perhaps a bit harsh for the new center back, but he lost his mark on Ty Harden during the second goal. Other than that Adailton defended fairly well but was pretty invisible. I'm certainly not looking to send him to the bench, but the truth is Gehrig has played better, which means either Adailton or Larentowicz should go to the bench and I have a hard time seeing Yallop pulling Big Red out of the lineup.
I: Sean Johnson: He was awful. I have never ranked him anywhere close to this low before but he just wasn't good. He had one nice save, but as the goalie, every mistake is amplified. He came off his line and missed the clearance/interception on the first corner kick. On the second free kick, he gave up a rebound in the most dangerous area of the field. He has to be better and he is better. I am in no hurry to pull him for the starting XI, but at least this year the Fire have a legitimate backup that will keep the pressure on Johnson to produce strong performances.
*Because I ranked David Accam, I did not rank Michael Stephens because he was more or less invisible after a solid outing last week. Neither good or bad really.
Kennedy Igboananike: Amarikwa's best role is serving as a spark off the bench but when Igboananike is playing the way he is at the moment, you almost have to start Quincy. Igboananike simply needs to make more runs and be more aggressive. He has to take the responsibility for goals.
Guly do Prado: At least he wasn't a midfield zombie like we saw in the first game. But he wasn't much of anything in his limited time in this one either.