One of the major storylines from Sunday's Fire opener was goalkeeper Matt Lampson.
That may have been the case regardless of how the game turned out because he was starting instead of the longest tenured Fire player and national teamer Sean Johnson. After a 4-3 loss, though, Lampson's performance was amplified.
With a couple days to rewatch the season-opening defeat, Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was able to give a clearer view on what worked and what went wrong. Paunovic spoke to media during his weekly conference on Tuesday and had more to say about the defensive lapses and Lampson's performance.
As he did in the postgame press conference, Paunovic defended Lampson because he executed the game plan, which was to play out of the back. Paunovic admitted some blame for an ill-fated strategy while playing into the wind and also said his teammates put Lampson in tough spots.
“I watched the game several times because I wanted to be sure of everything," Paunovic said. "Regarding Matt I think the team didn’t help him. He could do better. Everyone could do better than we performed in building out of the back, but he tried and tried and tried to develop and to play our plan.
"When that wasn’t possible he tried to play those long balls to our fullbacks, which didn’t work. He tried to do that so this is what we have to understand. He was trying to do that, and that is obviously my responsibility. He tried to do the plan that we wanted to play against New York. At some point we also have to understand that sometimes anyone else on the field, sometimes it was a midfielder, sometimes it was a center back, sometimes fullback, they played the ball back to him when it wasn’t necessary, when we didn’t need that. Having the weather conditions like we had, the wind against us, it wasn’t the best decision."
Those words in defense of Lampson might hint that he is still in line to start Friday at Orlando, but Paunovic said the staff is still deciding on who will get the start. He also quashed any notion that Sean Johnson was hurt by joining the team later in the preseason following a stint with the national team.
“Playing for the national team is always important and we are happy that our players are called for the national team and we will always support that," Paunovic said. "I think for sure it was beneficial for him and beneficial for the national team and for us, too. I wouldn’t relate the current situation with Sean with being with the national team the first part of the preseason."
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As for other lineup question marks heading into Friday, Gilberto's availability is unknown. The forward picked up a calf strain in the second minute of the loss to New York City FC and was subbed out at halftime.
Meanwhile, John Goossens has his visa and is flying back from the Netherlands on Tuesday. Goossens wasn't available for the opener.
“He had a very short period to fly a long flight and changing time zones so we will see how he feels," Paunovic said. "We will try to prepare him to be available for the game. We will decide obviously on Friday if he is ready or not.”
It's worth noting the story that Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez previously told about Goossens' arrival for his trial. The team offered Goossens some time to settle in before playing, but he wanted to play right away and did. If that's anything to go by, Goossens is probably more likely to play Friday than Paunovic led on.
The only other injury in the team remains Eric Gehrig. Gehrig, who is still recovering from surgery late last season, is still expected to be unavailable for a week or two, according to Paunovic, but has been a full participant in practice.