Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (5-2-4, 19 points) and the Chicago Fire (2-6-3, 9 points) at Exploria Stadium. This is the first meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals and it’s likely they’ll play again in Phase 2 but by no means is it assured.
The Lions are 2-4-5 in 11 MLS meetings with the Fire, but 0-2-3 at home against Chicago. For whatever reason, Orlando City has yet to scrape up a home win against Chicago. In fact, both Orlando City wins in the series came on the road back in 2015. The Lions are 0-4-4 in the last eight meetings. If you add in U.S. Open Cup, Orlando is 2-5-5 in the series.
The last meeting was a debacle for the Lions, who lost defender Robin Jansson to a back injury early and shipped a handful of goals in a 5-2 home loss in last year’s regular-season finale. Orlando got goals from Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel but largely played like a team that couldn’t wait to end its season. Chicago got an own goal from Orlando’s Kyle Smith and regular goals from CJ Sapong, Aleksandar Katai, and Przemyslaw Frankowski (twice) in the rout.
Orlando City was seconds away from a win at Chicago back on March 9 of last season before 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 at home back on May 26, 2018, with Alan Gordon’s wondergoal breaking a 1-1 deadlock after strikes by Cristian Higuita and Katai. The return leg in Chicago that 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 Conference’s cellar and stayed there for the rest of 2018.
The teams played to a 0-0 draw on June 4, 2017, with the Lions reduced to just nine men. Rafael Ramos was the first Orlando City player sent off that night and he was later joined by Antonio Nocerino. The previous 2017 meeting 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.
Orlando City enters tonight’s match on a five-game unbeaten run (3-0-2) and brings a home record of 2-0-2 into the proceedings. The Fire, meanwhile, are winless in four (0-2-2), winless on the road (0-3-2), and have just one victory in the last eight (1-5-2). Still, the Lions have yet to bloody Chicago at home and haven’t tasted victory in the series since 2015, so until it actually happens, be careful where you place your hopes. After all, Chicago was 1-10-5 on the road last season until visiting Orlando and running rampant.
The Lions have struggled to score goals recently, pushing just one past the opposition’s goalkeeper in the last three games (although they did get a helpful own goal from Miami in the last match). Chicago has shipped 18 goals this season, which is the most in the Eastern Conference. But the Fire are tied for sixth in the conference in goals scored (11). They average a goal per game but scored twice against Columbus in last weekend’s 2-2 draw.
Chicago is led by Slovenian DP striker Robert Beric, who has three goals and an assist on the season. Lion killer Sapong has appeared in only four matches this year (two starts) but is getting healthy just in time to play one of his favorite opponents. If Sapong plays, just hold your breath for the entire time he’s out there because Orlando has yet to solve him. Defender/midfielder Mauricio Pineda and the former Philadelphia Union forward each have two goals on the year. Spanish midfielder Alvaro Medran has a team-high three assists to go with one goal.
“Chicago [is] a team who has been improving lately, especially on the way they’re moving and building the ball,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said at this week’s press conference. “Hopefully we can have energy and be faithful to our forms and the way we have been playing.”
Pareja also said this week that he’d like his team to find more consistency in rhythm over the full 90 minutes and to be more clinical in front of goal.
“We’ve created a lot of volume on sequences and attack,” he said. “I think we need to be more precise on that part and just put the game away earlier.”
The Lions will be without Dwyer (knee surgery) and Joao Moutinho (groin), while the status of Jansson and Uri Rosell are less clear, with the center back a bit closer to returning than the Spanish midfielder. Chicago will be without defender Johan Kappelhof.
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.
- Our Dave Rohe discussed the three things he’ll be watching for in tonight’s match.
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for Sunday’s match, as well as an exclusive interview with Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso.
Attacking Midfielders: Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller.
Forward: Daryl Dike.
Bench: Brian Rowe, Alex De John, Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Robinho, Joey DeZart, Andres, Perea, Tesho Akindele, Benji Michel.
Chicago Fire (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Bobby Shuttleworth.
Defenders: Miguel Navarro, Francisco Calvo, Mauricio Pineda, Boris Sekulic.
Defensive Midfielders: Gastón Giménez, Álvaro Medrán.
Attacking Midfielders: Djordje Mihailovic, Ignacio Aliseda, Elliot Collier.
Forward: Robert Beric.
Bench: Gabriel Slonina, Jonathan Bornstein, Andre Reynolds, Wyatt Omsberg, Micheal Azira, Brandt Bronico, Javier Casas, Brian Gutierrez, CJ Sapong.
Ref: Nima Saghafi.
AR1: Jason White.
AR2: Tyler Wyrostek.
4th: Natalie Simon.
VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.
AVAR: Jozef Batko.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando, FL.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Radio: 96.9 FM The Game (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ (out of market only).
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Enjoy the game! Go City!