Editor's Note: Because MLS Live refuses to allow people to watch nationally televised games until 48 hours after the original airing, I did not see the Fire/NYCFC match until Tuesday night. These are my thoughts ...
Let me be clear: zero shots on goal and a team passing accuracy of 72 percent is not good.
But if you are going to have zero shots on goal and a 72 percent passing accuracy, you could look a lot worse than the Fire did Sunday. Because I did not watch the match until Tuesday night, I expected the worst. So grading against my expectations, I thought the Fire did OK to at least leave with a point.
Chicago put a lot of pressure on New York, especially in the first 25 minutes. While the pressure dissipated as the match went on from that point, the Fire still did some good things, including scoring a goal in the 59th minute that was waved off on a somewhat controversial offside call. They also probably should have gone up a man for Ronald Matarrita's insane play, but the Costa Rican got to hang around and avoid what should have been a double yellow game.
It wasn't until the 75th minute when the Fire completely parked the bus and had some moments of wild defending to hold on to the draw. If you only saw those last 20 minutes or so, you would think the team was completely outclassed. But the Fire did have their moments, they were just squandered in the usual ways.
Gilberto was offsides a handful of times, including early in the contest when Rodrigo Ramos served in a lovely cross. Gilberto completely missed the frame on the attempt before he knew he was offside. Kennedy Igboananike did the same thing later in the first half. It is one thing to kick the ball away after hearing an offside whistle, but in both cases, each player took a real attempt on goal and missed the frame.
In non-offside opportunities, it was Arturo Alvarez who had the best chance. Alvarez received a perfect pass near the top right corner of the box and attempted to one-touch a pass to Gilberto in the six-yard box and tightly defended. Alvarez had all the space to fire a shot on goal and possibly score but made the wrong decision, letting a golden opportunity slip away.
The defense was great though. It is nice knowing defenders, especially the center backs, will be in the right place at the right times. We can stop talking about Sean Johnson now too because it is not going to happen unless Matt Lampson gets injured. Lamps turned away David Villa a number of times and kept yet another clean sheet. It's his house now.
And with that, the player rankings ...
Player rankings will count down from XI to I with XI being the best. Subs often will not make the list, unless they are super duper awesome, in which case they might.
XI: Matt Lampson - Lampson was fantastic Sunday, turning away eight shots on goal, including a number of difficult ones off the foot of David Villa. He stopped a blast in the first half, a chip attempt in the second half and a scramble save on Villa and Thomas McNamara in the dying moments. That's three clean sheets already for Lampson this year. Can't ask for much more.
X: Rodrigo Ramos - The only one close to dethroning Lampson in this game. He was sensational on limiting Villa as Villa's chances all came away from Ramos. He also provided some of the best offensive opportunities moving forward in an otherwise stagnant attack. He kept his composure and focus after Ronald Matarrita attempted to kill him with a flying knee/elbow combination. It was a great performance all around.
IX: Jonathan Campbell - This one was a little tough because his passing was not as good as usual, but nobody's was as evidenced by the team percentage. Campbell was still his solid self and even scored on a header that perhaps should have counted. Defensively, he and Johan Kappelhof had plenty of action in the last 20 minutes and turned it all away. Campbell cleared the line on the McNamara rebound attempt late in the game.
VIII: Johan Kappelhof - Campbell's steady and sturdy partner was steady and sturdy yet again. The Dutch defender cleared his area with sliding tackles and headers throughout the contest, allowing few chances until the swarm of offense at the end. Kappelhof continues to show skill with the ball at his feet too as he is a confident dribbler up field.
VII: Michael Harrington - He was part of that key back line that helped keep a clean sheet. He had a tough matchup with the speedy Steven Mendoza and held his own. Harrington was more influential offensively in the first half, making overlapping runs along with Ramos on the flanks. But as Igboananike became more limited on the left side, so did Harrington, who had a quiet performance overall, which isn't necessarily bad for a defender.
VI: Michael Stephens - Not necessarily spectacular but he was part of the defensive effort that led to a clean sheet. He delivered the free kick on Campbell's disallowed goal as well. Stephens is turning in to a nice compliment for Matt Polster as the duo seems to have strong chemistry about who should go where and when they should go. His passing can still be erratic.
V: Matt Polster - He takes a position below Stephens only because Stephens had the free kick and played the full 90. Polster was on the bench when New York was on its late game blitz of offense. When on the field, Polster closed up dangerous areas as usual and tried to turn his defense into offense but struggled to find those key passes in the limited space the field provided.
IV: Gilberto - That's right. I'm not putting Gilberto last. The Brazilian striker did not get much help in the service department but still fought for his space. He drew a foul right outside the box in the second half because of his sole effort to take on two men for a pass that never had much of a chance. His missed offside shot was unpleasant but on a day when the offense did next to nothing, he fought for his space.
III: Razvan Cocis - He was fine defensively but did very little to create. He tried a number of quick passes with Alvarez that had some marginal success, but he largely was shut down. I know Cocis has played in the No. 10 role before, but not much for the Fire and I doubt he is a suitable long-term solution in that area.
II: Arturo Alvarez - Like Cocis, he had a couple nifty passes here and there but that was about it. He messed up the best chance the Fire had offensively and couldn't make much of an impact otherwise. John Goossens will likely take that spot, if not the No. 10 role, when Veljko Paunovic deems the Dutch midfielder ready for a full 90.
I: Kennedy Igboananike - He had a pretty good first 10 to 15 minutes and then disappeared. I am sure New York keyed on him, especially without David Accam to provide a speed threat on the other side. He just couldn't find a way to break down the defense and was a non-factor. Hopefully he can get back to scoring this weekend to keep his confidence up.