Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Decision Day showdown between Orlando City (9-14-10, 37 points) and the Chicago Fire (9-12-12, 39 points) at Exploria Stadium. This is the second of the two scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals and obviously it’s the season finale for both teams.
The Lions are 2-3-5 in 10 MLS meetings with the Fire, but just 0-1-3 at home against Chicago. Both wins for Orlando came on the road back in 2015 and City. The Lions are 0-3-4 in the last seven meetings.
Orlando City was seconds away from a win at Chicago back on March 9 before C.J. Sapong’s free header in the 95th minute leveled things in a 1-1 draw in Chicago. Dom Dwyer scored Orlando’s goal.
Orlando fell 2-1 in the last meeting between the teams at the stadium now known as Exploria, back on May 26 of 2018, with Alan Gordon’s wondergoal breaking a 1-1 deadlock after strikes by Cristian Higuita and Aleksandar Katai. The return leg in Chicago last September was an abysmal performance by Orlando in a 4-0 Fire victory. The Lions looked to have completely given up on that game as the team sunk to the Eastern Division’s cellar and stayed there for the rest of 2018.
The teams played to a 0-0 draw on June 4 of 2017, with the Lions reduced to just nine men. Rafael Ramos was the first Orlando City player sent off that night, before becoming part of the trade that brought Cam Lindley to City. Ramos has since returned to Portugal. The most 2017 meeting in Illinois was the Fire’s 4-0 beatdown of Orlando on June 24 of that year. David Accam figured in all four goals, with a hat trick and an assist on Nemanja 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.
Both teams were eliminated from postseason contention last weekend so it will be interesting to see how the teams react in this match. While Chicago underachieved all year, Orlando stayed in contention deep into the season in a rebuilding year and missed the playoffs due to an inability to get home results and to close out games (including the first meeting against Chicago early this season). Orlando is just 6-7-3 at home in 2019, while Chicago is a dreadful 1-10-5 away from SeatGeek Stadium.
The Lions enter on a seven-match winless skid (0-3-4) that knocked them firmly out of the postseason chase and all the way to 11th in the conference standings. Orlando could finish where it is or rise to as high as eighth place with a win. The Fire have drawn their last two games and are unbeaten in three (1-0-2), but Chicago is also winless in its last four road matches (0-2-2), scoring just once in its last two away games.
Chicago is led by Lion killers Sapong and Nikolic, both of whom enter with a dozen goals scored in 2019. Nicolas Gaitan has played setup man for the Fire in 2019, with 12 assists. Przemyslaw Frankowski and Katai area also dangerous. Orlando’s defense will need to lock down Chicago’s talented attackers to end the season with a win.
The Lions will be without Joao Moutinho (quad), while Cristian Higuita (lower body) is listed as questionable. Chicago’s Jonathan Bornstein (back) is questionable.
Mandatory Match #Content
- Our Intelligence Report includes a bit of a scouting report on the Fire from Ruben Tisch of SBNation’s Chicago blog, Hot Time in Old Town,
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for Sunday’s match.
Orlando City (4-3-3)
Goalkeeper: Brian Rowe.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Kamal Miller, Ruan.
Midfielders: Uri Rosell, Mauricio Pereyra, Will Johnson.
Forwards: Nani, Tesho Akindele, Benji Michel.
Bench: Adam Grinwis, Shane O’Neill, Carlos Ascues, Sebas Mendez, Chris Mueller, Sacha Kljestan. Dom Dwyer.
Chicago Fire (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Kenneth Kronholm.
Defenders: Jonathan Bornstein, Francisco Calvo, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Johan Kappelhof.
Defensive Midfielders: Dax McCarty, Brandt Bronico.
Attacking Midfielders: Aleksandar Katai, Nicolás Gaitán, Przemyslaw Frankowski.
Forward: C.J. Sapong.
Bench: Richard Sánchez, Marcelo, Micheal Azira, Djordje Mihailovic, Fabian Herbers, Nemanja Nikolic, Jeremiah Gutjahr.
Ref: Pierre-Luc Lauziere.
AR1: Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho.
AR2: Jose Da Silva.
4th: Christopher Penso.
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
AVAR: Jozef Batko.
How to Watch
Match Time: 4 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (formerly My65) (local only).
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), Accion 97.9 (Spanish), 810 AM.
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ and YouTube TV.
Match Thread Rules
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Enjoy the match! Go City!
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