The Veljko Paunovic era started with a thud on Sunday, but it was a thrilling thud if there is such a thing.
New York City FC beat the Chicago Fire 4-3 in a season opener that kept producing goals.
The Fire's new-look defense struggled to prevent chances and New York capitalized. All four defenders and goalkeeper Matt Lampson were making their Fire debuts and that unit didn't start well.
Even before kickoff Paunovic made his mark by choosing Lampson in goal ahead of Sean Johnson. Lampson struggled with NYCFC's press and there were some miscommunication errors in defense. Some of that should be expected with all new players, but it still wasn't a good debut by any definition.
"I think he did his best," Paunovic said of Lampson. "I think he worked for the team. He tried to develop the plan that we prepared. We are happy with him."
[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear here]
Thomas McNamara scored the first goal of the Major League Soccer season with a beautiful curling effort from outside the box in the 10th minute. It was a great shot that left Lampson no chance, but McNamara was given plenty of space by the Fire midfield in a good position.
"I thought when we were able to switch the ball we were able to expose them a little bit and give us a little bit of an advantage," McNamara said.
The Fire almost answered immediately with David Accam springing Gilberto behind the NYCFC defense, but Gilberto went down in the box and didn't draw a call.
In the 19th minute the Fire did get their equalizer through Razvan Cocis. Arturo Alvarez hit a chipped pass over the defense and Cocis made a deep run to find himself all alone in the box. He took his time and finished to level the match at 1-1.
The goals just kept coming with Tony Taylor putting the visitors back on top in the 29th minute. He scored with a nice turn and finish in the box after Michael Harrington and Joao Meira collided while trying to clear the ball.
Khiry Shelton doubled the New York City lead by burning Brandon Vincent on the right wing and dancing past Lampson in the 36th minute.
Paunovic made another key decision at halftime, taking off Gilberto for Jonathan Campbell. On paper, taking off a forward and putting in a central defender while down two goals at halftime seems like a strange move. However, it seemed to work initially.
From the start of the half Accam and Kennedy Igboananike created all kinds of problems for the New York City defense. In the 49th minute, Accam forced a turnover and fed the ball across to Igboananike, who scored to get the Fire back in it and re-energize the crowd.
Then Mix Diskerud volleyed home the sixth goal of the match in the 63rd minute off a cross from McNamara.
Accam got the Fire back within one with a penalty kick in the 71st after a corner kick resulted in a handball in the box. That would be the end to the goals though.
"This is just the beginning of our philosophy," Accam said. "We have young players and they'll learn and we'll try to improve for the next games."
In all, nine players debuted for the Fire. Six starters, Lampson, all four defenders (Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof, Michael Harrington and Brandon Vincent) and Arturo Alvarez, and subs Campbell and Rodrigo Ramos and Joey Calistri.
As an additional note, John Goossens was unavailable while still awaiting his visa. On the pregame show on CSN, Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez said Goossens is flying back to the Netherlands this week to finish the process, but Rodriguez said he wasn't certain Goossens would be available for Friday's match at Orlando City.