Orlando City will look to extend its unbeaten streak to six games tomorrow evening but, given that the Lions have never beaten this week’s opponent at home, that may prove to be easier said than done. The fact that Lion killer CJ Sapong is likely to be back and featuring for the opposition doesn’t exactly help matter either.
Yes, OCSC takes on the Chicago Fire this Saturday, and that means I sat down with Ruben Tisch of SBNation’s Hot Time in Old Town to get a feel for the 2020 edition of the Fire. As usual he did an excellent job of updating us on how things have been going for Chicago lately. I also answered a few of his questions, which you can find over at their place.
It’s been a slightly bumpy restart for Chicago since regular-season play resumed. What has been the biggest reason for that?
RT: It’s been death by a thousand little cuts for the Fire. Everything that went wrong in the last two games of the MLS is Back tournament— the poor passing, bad decision-making, and lapses in concentration — has continued throughout this restart. Despite showcasing that they can play pretty well and hang with some of the best teams in the league, something always ushers in their undoing.
If you want me to get onto a specific player, Francisco Calvo is their biggest problem. If something has gone wrong with the defense, it’s more often than not the fault of the club captain. At least once a match, he’ll make a dumb turnover or get beat too easily or keep someone onside that leads to a goal-scoring opportunity, and it’s not like Gigi Buffon is in goal to clean up the mess.
They also have problems putting the ball in the back of the net on a consistent basis. They’ll miss wide-open shots and waste good buildups and counter attacks.
Robert Beric was brought in as a Designated Player back in January. How has he performed so far?
RT: To be blunt, he’s been bad. Last week, both on our podcast and in an article I wrote, I called him a bust. He played well against Columbus for sure, getting a goal and an assist. But other than that, his performances have ranged from ineffective to invisible.
A lot of this, though, has to do with his expectations versus what kind of player he actually is. Yes he was brought in to be the star DP striker, but if you look at his numbers, he’s never really been that guy. He hasn’t scored double-digit league goals in five or six seasons, and never in France. He’s just not a goal scorer. He is a good hold-up player and he works hard in the full press. And I will never question the guy’s effort. But, when you sign a DP striker, you expect more production on the score sheet than he is currently and historically giving.
The Fire are only five points off eighth place and are far from being out of the playoff race. What does the team need to focus on most to get things back on track?
RT: They need to fix all the little problems that I mentioned in the first question. That’s pretty much it. The club has a tendency to play really well and then just brain fart their way into losing points. The roster is filled with good players, They just need to play like they’re capable of doing and they’ll be fine.
They also need to score goals.
Are there any injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
RT: Johan Kappelhof is still out, which is a big problem for the defense and is part of the reason they make so many mistakes. But other than that, not really. CJ Sapong came in at the end against Columbus and I hope he’s in the lineup this weekend. If he is, I expect he’ll play about an hour.
The Fire will line up in a 4-2-3-1 with Bobby Shuttleworth in goal. Miguel Navarro, Francisco Calvo, Mauricio Pineda, and Boris Sekulic on defense. The midfield will be Gastón Giménez and Álvaro Medrán in a double pivot with CJ Sapong, Ignacio Aliseda, and Fabian Herbers forward, and Robert Beric up top.
As for a final score, a 1-1 draw.
As always, thanks to Ruben for some great information on the Fire, and vamos Orlando!