Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Wednesday night match-up between Orlando City (6-2-3, 21 points) and the Chicago Fire (2-7-2, 8 points) at Soldier Field (8 p.m., TUDN, UniMas). This is the first of two scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2021, with the return leg in Orlando set for Aug. 21.
The Lions are 3-4-5 in 12 MLS meetings with the Fire and 3-5-5 in all competitions. Orlando City is 2-2-2 on the road in the series in league play and 2-3-2 in all competitions, but this will be the first time the teams have faced each other at Soldier Field.
The Lions were 0-4-4 in the last eight meetings before smashing the Fire 4-1 in Orlando on a crazy night at Exploria Stadium on Sept. 19, 2020. Orlando City withstood two Chicago penalties and saw two Fire goals overturned by video review in that rain-soaked match. The Lions got goals from Chris Mueller, Nani, Junior Urso, and Benji Michel while Chicago had only a Robert Beric penalty to show for an otherwise good offensive performance.
The last meeting of 2019 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 the 2019 regular-season finale. Orlando got goals from Tesho Akindele and 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.
In the last trip to Chicago, Orlando City was seconds away from a road win on March 9, 2019 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 having suffered its second loss of the season — both to the New York Red Bulls. The Lions easily could have won the match had they been sharper in front of goal, with Mauricio Pereyra firing a weak penalty kick attempt too close to Carlos Coronel and Daryl Dike failing to beat the keeper after being slipped in behind the defense. That loss snapped a three-game winning streak.
The Fire, meanwhile, are on their best run of form this season after a 3-0 win against Atlanta in their last outing and a 3-3 draw against the Philadelphia Union the match before that. Both of those matches were at home and this will be Chicago’s fourth consecutive game at Soldier Field overall.
The Lions have gotten Mueller going, as the winger has scored his first two goals of the season in the last two matches consecutively. He’s had a direct goal contribution in four straight games (two goals, two assists).
Chicago is led by Serbian midfielder Luka Stojanović and Argentinian winger Ignacio Aliseda, who each have three goals on the season. Slovenian Designated Player striker Robert Beric has only one goal so far this season but is always a threat. Spanish midfielder Alvaro Medran has a team-high three assists and played extremely well against Orlando last season.
Chicago had scored just four goals in the team’s first nine matches of the season but the Fire have exploded for six goals in the last two games after Raphaël Wicky switched formations to a 3-5-2. Orlando will need to be patient with the ball as the Fire will have numbers in the midfield.
“A quick turnaround with Chicago. Like always an important game, and a team who has gained momentum in the last two games,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said in his Monday press conference. “For us, with the urgency to keep adding points, it surely will be a hard rival who has been more consistent in the last two games with the way they’ve changed their model. [We’re] analyzing aspects that we need to control from them, but also the opportunities that we have as a team to hurt them. We’re ready to fight back.”
The Lions will be without Ruan (lower body) and Antonio Carlos (adductor, per Pareja). Moutinho and Alexandre Pato (both lower body) are listed as questionable. Dike is away on international duty with the USMNT for the upcoming Concacaf Gold Cup. Sebas Mendez may be back from the Copa America in time to be available for this match but I don’t expect him back in the lineup so quickly. Pedro Gallese’s Peru side lost in the semifinals but will play in a third-place match on Friday in Brasilia.
Chicago will be without Francisco Calvo (international duty), Stanislav Ivanov (left knee), Kenneth Kronholm (right knee), and Carlos Terán (right shin).
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report includes a bit of a scouting report on the Fire from Patrick McCraney of SBNation’s Chicago blog, Hot Time in Old Town.
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for tonight’s match.
Orlando City (4-4-2)
Goalkeeper: Brandon Austin.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Michael Halliday.
Midfielders: Andres Perea Junior Urso, Uri Rosell, Silvester van der Water.
Forwards: Benji Michel, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Joey DeZart, Sebas Mendez, David Loera, Alexander Alvarado, Mauricio Pereyra, Nani, Chris Mueller.
Chicago Fire (3-5-2)
Goalkeeper: Bobby Shuttleworth.
Defenders: Jonathan Bornstein, Mauricio Pineda, Johan Kappelhof.
Midfielders: Miguel Navarro, Álvaro Medrán, Fabian Herbers, Przemyslaw Frankowski, Boris Sekulic.
Forward: Ignacio Aliseda, Robert Beric.
Bench: Gabriel Slonina, Wyatt Omsberg, Jhon Espinoza, Javier Casas, Gaston Gimenez, Brian Gutierrez, Luka Stojanovic, Elliot Collier, Chinonso Offor.
Ref: Guido Gonzales Jr..
AR1: C.J. Morgante.
AR2: Meghan Mullen.
4th: Elton Garcia.
VAR: Matt Franz.
AVAR: Peter Manikowski.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: Soldier Field — Chicago, IL.
TV: TUDN, UniMas.
Radio: 96.9 FM The Game (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on Twitter in English and the TUDN app and Univision NOW.
Enjoy the game. Go City!