Toyota Park was the scene for the opening fixture of the 2016 MLS season as Chicago Fire squared off against Patrick Vieira’s New York City side.
Both teams performance last year left much to desire; therby major changes were seen throughout both franchises’ rosters and background staff during the offseason. This left both sides somewhat unaware of what might transpire on opening day. What did, was a thoroughly entertaining tussle which saw little defence and a lot of goal-mouth action.
The early pressure came mostly from the home side, using the pace which their front three possess to terrorise the New York back line. Getting in behind time and time again all that was lacking was a finish, as City goalkeeper Saunders looked to be in inspired form. The lack of a finish from Chicago saw them punished on 10 minutes, albeit by a wonderful strike from McNamara. Picking the ball up 25 yards out, the American curled in a stunning goal off Lampson’s lefthand post.
Nine minutes later, and Chicago were level. A defence splitting ball from Alvarez saw Cocis go through one on one with keeper, and after what seemed like a lifetime, he cooly converted into the bottom lefthand corner sending the ‘Fire Pit’ into uproar. Following the equaliser City upped their level and put Chicago on the back foot. Their second came on the back of more defensive frailties from Fire. Two teammates colided in the box with the ball falling kindly at the feet of Taylor who swiveled and finished well. When Shelton grabbed New York’s third shortly after, the home fans were beginning to remember hardships of seasons past. The youngster picked up the ball and went on a mazy run before rounding Lampson and firing home. He is one to be watched this season ! City went in at half time delighted with a 3-1 lead but aware that their defence looked very nervy.
That nervy City defence did strike again 4 minutes into the second half. Saunders found his centreback with a goalkick, who looked as if he didn’t want to recvive it. He then lost the ball, after slack play, to Accam, who capitalised by squaring the ball into the path of the on-rushing Igboananike who had the easy task of knocking it into a gaping net. The following fifteen minutes saw back and forth action as Chicago pressed for an equaliser whilst City sought a fourth. And it was the New Yorker’s who were celebrating for the fouth time on the 63rd minute. Man of the match McNamara fought through a tackle before lifting a beautiful cross to Diskerud at the back post who caught the ball stunningly on the volley, giving City what they thought to be an unassailable lead.
Three minutes later however, this crazy game took another twist as Chicago were ‘handed’ a penalty after a hand ball from Shelton. Accam, with great composure lashed the ball past Lampson thereby closing the gap to only one once again. Vieira’s troops now wary of unthinkably losing their lead dropped deeper, making it difficult for Chicago to exploite their defence as they had done all game. Successfully, City held their opponents to very little in the final 20 minutes and actually came closer to grabbing another themselves through captain David Villa. At the full time whistle the scoreline read Chicago 3- 4 New York. Relief for the visitors. Dissapointment for the home side.
Well, what to say about that one. A spectacular opening to the season which, with the cameras there, could prove to be a real advert for the MLS. Both sides will be delighted with their attacking options but with defences as shaky, coming up against better opposition could see them found out. However, as long as they keep entertaining, the neutrals will be happy. Their support not so much.
Here’s to a magical season !