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Exit Interview: Matt Lampson

Former Columbus Homegrown (and humanitarian cancer survivor) nabbed the Opening Day start after signing as a free agent

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Lampson, GK

6-ft-3, 190 lbs, 27 years old, from Cleveland, TN
Signed as a free agent on Feb 26, 2016
MLSPU 2016 salary: $76,625
2016 stats
GP: 11  Minutes: 990  Saves: 55  Goals against: 18  Clean sheets: 3
GA/90: 1.64  Saves/90: 5.0
Career MLS stats
GP: 27  Minutes: 2300  Saves: 105  Goals against: 39 Clean sheets: 8
GA/90: 1.53  Saves/90: 4.11

Scouting report

Didn't get much of a chance in Columbus as a Homegrown Player, but that could also be read as ‘failed to nail down a starting spot in four years' ... edge in distribution made him an opening-day starter for the first time in his career, but that advantage seemed to dissipate as the team played cringing, fearful football ... in preseason showed ability to keep possession ... good shot-stopper with solid fundamentals, but the lack of games over the years tells with iffy positioning and questionable decisions in breakdown situations ... great leader in the locker room and in the community, has been repeatedly cited for his work off the field, including 2016 MLS Humanitarian of the Year award

2016 review

Matt Lampson was at the center of the primary controversy of the 2016 preseason, as he impressed Velko Paunovic sufficiently while Sean Johnson was away at the USMNT's January camp to displace the Fire incumbent. The general plan, we were given to understand, was canny but positive football, with Lampson at the back keeping the ball rolling - and that plan had its usual reaction to contact with the enemy. The entire team seemed to suffer a crisis of confidence after opening the season with a wild 4-3 loss to NYCFC, and Lampson found himself playing behind a defense and midfield committed almost 100 percent to spoiling play. So arrayed, Lampson and the Fire put up three consecutive clean sheets to rise to the high point of their season - 1-3-1, six pts from five games.

All that defending led the team to forget how to score, seemingly. Once opponents were sure the Fire were going to commit nine men to defend, they tightened the screw. By then, Lampson seemed to have lost a bit of confidence, and the Fire managed one point in the next five to root themselves at the foot of the table, where they stayed for the remainder of the season. By the end of that skein, Lampson had been benched in favor of Johnson.

Lampson did play well in the Fire's US Open Cup run. In the fourth-round matchup against Indy Eleven, he saved two penalty kicks to see the Fire through to the quarterfinals.

2017 outlook

Lampson's price point, community work and general willingness to get down to business mean he will likely be back next year, and given a chance to compete for the starting keeper spot again. But unless Paunovic and his staff can unlock whole new layers to his game - cleaner touch, cannier positioning, the ability to pass to feet - then his continuation as a starting keeper must be still be considered a bit of a roster stopgap. Don't be surprised to see the Fire bring in several challengers to force Lampson to either raise his game or step aside. That said, if he's not the starter - and willing to back up - then I'd love to see him back on the roster.