Welcome to your match thread for tonight's match-up between Orlando City (6-4-1, 19 points) and the Chicago Fire (3-6-2, 11 points) at Orlando City Stadium. It’s the first of two scheduled meetings between these Eastern Conference opponents with the return leg in Chicago set for Sept. 16.
The Fire are off to a slow start after a good 2017 season that saw the Men in Red finish third in the Eastern Conference behind the scoring prowess of Nemanja Nikolić — last year’s MLS Golden Boot winner — and star midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger. It’s hard to believe the departure of David Accam alone is responsible for Chicago’s slide. Certainly injuries have contributed, but the talent is there and it may just be a matter of time before it comes together.
The Lions are 2-1-4 against Chicago in the all-time series since the club joined MLS, or 2-2-4 if you count the U.S. Open Cup match-up in 2015. All three previous meetings in Orlando have been draws.
You may recall the last meeting in Orlando was a 0-0 draw on June 4 of last year, with the Lions reduced to just nine men. Rafael Ramos was the first Orlando City player sent off that night and now he returns as a member of the Fire after being part of the trade that brought Cam Lindley to City. The most recent meeting was the Fire’s 4-0 beatdown of Orlando in Chicago last June 24, just two days after the Lions fought to a 1-1 draw in Seattle. Accam figured in all four goals, with a hat trick and an assist on Nikolić’s goal.
The teams split the points in 2016, drawing both meetings. Cyle Larin and Accam traded goals in the first 14 minutes of a 1-1 draw in Orlando on March 11, despite Chicago going down a man in the 26th minute. The Fire again came from behind to draw, 2-2, in the return leg that August, with Razvan Cocis scoring off a set piece in the 79th minute. John Goossens opened the scoring but Larin and Kaká tallies put the Lions ahead until the late equalizer.
The teams met once in Orlando in 2015, with the Lions and Fire battling to a 1-1 draw. You may recall that five-hour, weather-delayed affair with Eric Gehrig's own-goal canceling out an Accam strike. The other three meetings came in Chicago, with City winning 3-2 and 1-0 in MLS matches and falling 3-1 in USOC quarterfinal action.
Orlando City has lost two straight on the heels of a six-game winning streak — both by 2-1 scores. Chicago has also lost two straight games and three of its last four. The Lions are 4-2-1 at home this season, while the Fire are 1-2-1 on the road.
Chicago has allowed six goals in the last two matches — a 3-0 loss to Columbus Crew and a 3-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo.
The Fire will try to get at Orlando City’s back line by finding balls from talented midfielders like Schweinsteiger and Tony Tchani, as well as Dax McCarty if he’s able to play, to the front three, which will most likely be Diego Campos, Nikolić, and Aleksandar Katai. The Lions will be without Amro Tarek (international duty) and Jonathan Spector (concussion) and will likely still be missing Scott Sutter (knee) off the back line. Look for Chris Schuler to slot in next to Lamine Sané — who also missed some time this week with a knock but is expected to be available. If Sané can’t play, it’s emergency time for someone like RJ Allen or Tony Rocha to fill in.
Yoshimar Yotún is away on international duty through the World Cup. Dom Dwyer (the dreaded lower body injury) was listed as out on the MLS injury report as of Wednesday, so it’s probably wise to expect the worst as far as his availability since he was not training with the rest of the club as of Thursday. Nice things...we cannot have them.
Chicago, meanwhile, has its own issues with aches and pains. The Fire list all of the following as out: Djordje Mihailovic (ACL), Michael de Leeuw (ACL), Matt Polster (MCL), Luis Solignac (quad), Jon Bakero (ankle), Drew Conner (left gastroc — I don’t even know what that is). Dax McCarty (hamstring) is questionable.
The Lions will likely go with Stefano Pinho up top again, although it’s possible the team could shift to a 4-4-2 and play Justin Meram, Josué Colmán, or Chris Mueller up top with Pinho. Orlando City will have to avoid turnovers in the middle of the pitch, defend for 90 minutes, and not give space to Schweinsteiger in the midfield or Nikolić in the Chicago attacking third.
Mandatory Match #Content:
Here's your mandatory match content for the game:
- Our Intelligence Report provides more info about the Fire from James Bridget Gordon of SB Nation’s Chicago blog, Hot Time in Old Town.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and final score predictions, plus our exclusive interview with Orlando Pride defender/midfielder Toni Pressley.
- Our Ben Miller gives you his three keys to an Orlando City victory over the Fire.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Joe Bendik.
Defenders: Mohamed El-Munir, Tony Rocha, Chris Schuler, RJ Allen.
Defensive Midfielders: Oriol Rosell, Cristian Higuita.
Attacking Midfielders: Justin Meram, Sacha Kljestan, Chris Mueller
Forward: Josué Colmán.
Bench: Earl Edwards Jr., PC, Richie Laryea, Dillon Powers, Stefano Pinho, Adam Grinwis, Donny Toia.
Chicago Fire (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Patrick McLain.
Defenders: Jorge Corrales, Jonathan Campbell, Johan Kappelhof, Kevin Ellis.
Defensive Midfielders: Mo Adams. Bastian Schweinsteiger,
Attacking Midfielders: Aleksandar Katai, Daniel Johnson, Diego Campos.
Forwards: Nemanja Nikolic,
Bench: Richard Sanchez, Grant Lillard, Brandon Vincent, Alan Gordon, Brandt Bronico, Tony Tchani, Drew Conner.
Ref: Nima Saghafi.
AR1: Peter Manikowski.
AR2: Jose Da Silva.
4th: Marcos DeOliveira.
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Orlando City Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: WRDQ TV 27 (Local only).
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), La Nueva 990 (Spanish).
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