Well, here we are once again. Coming off a less-than-desirable result against the Columbus Crew, Orlando City now faces off against the Chicago Fire for the first time in MLS play. Orlando is missing Brek Shea, who is with the U.S. Men's National team, so the lineup for the Lions was made accordingly.
Orlando's starting 11 for the game:
G: Tally Hall; D- Rafael Ramos, Sean St. Ledger, Seb Hines, Luke Boden ; M- Cristian Higuita, Darwin Céren, Lewis Neal, Kaká, Eric Avila; F- Pedro Ribeiro
The game started off a bit back and forth, and early on things didn't look to go Orlando's way. Just 15 minutes into the match, Quincy Amarikwa slotted a nice pass to winger David Accam, who burst through Orlando's defense, turned on the after burners, and slotted an easy, uncontested goal past Tally Hall, putting the home side up 1-0.
The goal resulted after Rafael Ramos lost sight of Accam, who got the inside positioning on the young defender and made him pay for it.
Orlando then had to play catch-up, as they did just last week in real life against Columbus. While they maintained possession for most of the next 15 minutes, only one real chance came from Ribeiro taking a very weak shot right into Jon Busch's arms.
Then, just a few minutes later, in the 39th minute, Kaká received a nice ball just outside the box, which he collected, turned and fired on goal, just going over the crossbar. After that shot, however, things got scary for Orlando.
Chicago methodically made their way up the field and, for the next five minutes, toyed with the Lions outside of their 18-yard box. The Fire continuously passed the ball around, making defenders chase after them, but never actually making a move for goal. It was a sequence that would make you tear your hair out if it happened in real life.
Finally, Orlando was able to clear the ball and the halftime whistle blew. Chicago ended the half with that one shot on goal and lost the battle in possession. Orlando's 93% passing accuracy was the best so far in the "FIFA predicts" series, but it was the first time that the Lions were down at the half.
The second half began with Chicago taking the game back at Orlando. In the 50th minute, rookie midfielder Matt Polster made a run into Orlando's box and, after a nifty fake shot, sent defender Seb Hines running the wrong way. This left Polster wide open, but Hines was able to recover nicely and block the wide open shot away for a corner.
After this defensive play, things looked a bit testy for the Lions, but on the ensuing corner, the unthinkable happened. Razvan Cocis, who came on for the Fire at halftime, was on the outside of the box, being marked by Lewis Neal. The ball swung all the way out to the Romanian, but somehow, Neal got under him and flipped him upside down, inside the box. The ref immediately blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.
In stepped Jeff Larentowicz to take the penalty. He lined it up and took a good long run up, but somehow hit the crossbar! Harry Shipp tried to follow it up but hit the ball right out of bounds! A catastrophe was averted for Orlando, as it remained 1-0 to the Fire.
After the penalty, Adrian Heath decided to make some substitutions, taking out the offender Lewis Neal in place of Carlos Rivas in the 54th minute, while five minutes later, Amobi Okugo came in for Higuita.
Even with the missed penalty and substitutes, Orlando's luck didn't get any better. In fact, it seemed to get worse. In the 61st minute, after a nice combination of passes, Ribeiro tried to take a shot from just outside the box, but his own teammate, Darwin Céren, got in the way to block it, sending both players to the ground.
Not much else happened for the next 20 or so minutes, until the 88th minute, which was arguably the best chance Orlando had all night. Céren somehow split two defenders and found a wide open Rivas inside the 18. Rivas took a touch to put the ball on his dominant left foot, took a rip, and missed horribly. This was a situation that, if you were actually playing this game on FIFA 15, you would have thrown your controller into your TV in disgust. So, it was yet another lamented chance for the young Colombian.
As the final seconds ticked away in the game, the Fire began to hold onto the ball in Orlando's area and tried to run out the clock. Somehow, Céren was able to steal the ball and pass it off to Kaká, who promptly passed away the ball and Orlando's last chance in the game, as the final whistle blew, and the game ended with a 1-0 Chicago win.
Now, onto the implications for tonight's game. With the history of this series, it has been wrong every time.
OC vs NYCFC Prediction: 4-1 (Actual 1-1)
OC vs Montreal Impact Prediction: 0-0 (Actual 2-2)
OC vs Columbus Crew SC Prediction: 2-0 (Actual 0-3)
With the track record of this prediction series, it's safe to say that things may not be as bad as the prediction implicates, so hopefully Orlando will pull out a gutsy win and avenge the loss they had against the Fire back in the 2013 U.S. Open Cup.