Both Orlando City and the Chicago Fire enter Saturday night’s showdown with respective two-game losing streaks and a strong desire to get back to winning ways. For Orlando, it’s a chance to keep up with the rest of the Eastern Conference playoff teams while the Fire need results to get back into the conversation. Both teams will have not-so-fond memories of the last time they squared off in Orlando City Stadium, which ended in a gritty, frustrating 0-0 draw.
After shocking the league last season, Chicago looks nothing like the side that finished third in the East. While injuries have hampered things as of late, the Fire are sitting on just 11 points through 11 matches and losing ground on the red line. To provide some insight on why the Fire have been struggling, Hot Time in Old Town Editor-in-Chief James Bridget Gordon stopped by to answer some questions. You can find my answers to their questions at their place.
Chicago sent David Accam to Philadelphia for a hefty sum over the off-season. How has the Fire attack coped without the winger?
James Bridget Gordon: We’re definitely missing the production and creativity that 2017 David Accam delivered. Our “replacement” for him was Aleksandar Katai, but he’s not quite the same kind of player and obviously isn’t producing goals and assists at the same level as Accam last year. But if you look at Accam’s numbers this season for Philly, you’ll see that he’s really fallen off a cliff. And I don’t think it’s just because it’s Philly. I think if we hung on to Accam he would’ve entered into a similar slump and we’d be no better off right now. So, I don’t know, six of one half dozen of the other, I suppose.
The Fire were the surprises of 2017 but have struggled this season and have won just one game in their last five. What has been the biggest cause for the drop-off?
JBG: How much time have you got? Pretty much a lot of our key players are on lengthy injury layoffs, including, most recently, Dax McCarty. Our biggest miss right now is Matt Polster, who’s been struggling with injuries since preseason and last week suffered an MCL tear right as he came back to training. The team doctors are saying September or October for his return, but personally I think his season is done. And it really sucks, because he turned out to be a pretty crucial piece of the puzzle for us. So, we have a lot of injuries to key players and then the guys we have left just aren’t stepping up. It doesn’t help that some of Veljko Paunovic’s decision making and substitutions have been, uh, dubious. So there’s kind of a lot going on right now.
Chicago has been linked to several big name European stars in recent months. Is this team an Iker Casillas or Fernando Torres away from shooting back up the table again?
JBG: Honestly, no. I’ll definitely take Fernando Torres or some other big name, because at this point every position on the pitch is one we can improve on. But we’re not one rock star DP from competing. We need a few more players and also some of our injured squad members to hurry back.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
JBG: LOL, everyone’s hurt and we’re dying.
Out: Djordje Mihailovic, Michael de Leeuw, Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Jon Bakero, Drew Conner. Questionable: Dax McCarty.
Projected lineup: Richard Sanchez; Brandon Vincent, Grant Lillard, Johan Kappelhof, Kevin Ellis; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daniel Johnson, Mo Adams; Aleksandar Katai, Nemanja Nikolic, Diego Campos.
Thanks again to James for taking the time to answer some questions.