Yesterday was the first real preseason game of the year. Real in the sense that we are getting a look at the probably opening day eleven. It was an interesting and entertaining game. The new members of the Fire starting lineup, Dilly Duka, Joel Lindpere, Jeff Larentowicz all played pretty well. Duka really impressed both offensively and defensively. Showed a willingness to defend and disrupt plays but still get forward and into good goal scoring positions (he did net an assist on the day and forced an own goal). Larentowicz played as I expected, helping to initiate the attack and pushing up when he had the opportunity. Had several good moments and even scored off of a corner! Lindpere showed terrific vision, solid passing, and had a nice corner kick assist on the Larentowicz goal. A very pleasing day for the new additions.
Defensively much of the issues from last year were still visible. Set piece defending was not stellar. Houston was able to capitalize off a free kick and a corner on their two goals. The first was just a well worked Houston free kick. Sometimes you just can't get upset when you concede a goal to a team who is consistently the best at scoring from dead ball situations. The second goal was more concerning. Terrible marking left Houston's Cam Weaver wide open off a corner. At this point the back four was a bit different than what it was when the game started (a concerning injury to Gonzalo Segares forced Logan Pause to left back for most of the game) but all of the players on the field were of starting caliber. No excuse on that one.
Other rambling thoughts: Patrick Nyarko was clearly still getting comfortable as this was his first game of the preseason. Looked out of sorts at times. Logan Pause was the first option at left back when Segares went down with an injury. I thought he handled the position just fine. Pause proving again why he is indispensable to Frank Klopas. Steven Kinney saw his first action in two years when he entered the game in the 61st minute at center back. He was a bit rusty and at times out of position. It looked like he might still have the physical tools to contribute, but as a backup central defender instead of at right back. His progress throughout the rest of the games in Carolina will be interesting to see. Chris Rolfe looked in good form as he forced a terrific save out of Tally Hall. MacDonald getting on the scoreboard was a major positive. One thing of slight concern is that the partnership between MacDonald and Rolfe is clearly still developing within the context of the 4-4-2. At times they looked out of sync up front. They played well together last year so I would expect their pairing to improve as they get more time together against first team defenses. The sexy Brazilian pairing of Maicon Santos and Alex up top did not initiate a ton of offense. To be fair it was Santos' first game of camp. He did not have a good game had his penalty attempt saved and disrupted a Corben Bone run by getting into a skirmish with a Dynamo defender. Bone on the other hand looked good in his thirty minutes on the field. Was able to get the ball and initiate offense. Was able to slip through multiple defenders a few times. Sean Johnson looked comfortable in goal. Was really tested only once and was able to come up with a big save. Yazid Atouba was not making runs into the box from the left wing. Yet he did draw a penalty and looked solid with the ball at his feet.