Orlando City scored first but conceded once in first-half stoppage time and twice in the second half to fall 3-1 at Soldier Field. The Lions (6-3-3, 21 points) will rue the scoring chances they created, which should have been sufficient to build a good lead on the road, but instead they’ll come home with no points as Chicago (3-7-2, 11 points) won consecutive matches for the first time this season.
Andres Perea opened the scoring to put the Lions on the front foot, but poor marking let Boris Sekulic tie it at the death of the first half. A bad defensive lapse allowed Robert Beric to put Chicago ahead in the second half and Chinonso Offor scored an insurance tally late in stoppage time.
“Sad at the result, but happy to see all the good things that the boys did in the game,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “I have to say that the boys fought for the game all the time and we couldn’t just put the ball in the back of the net today.”
Pareja rotated his lineup heavily in the midfield and forward lines but couldn’t do much at the back. Brandon Austin started again in place of Pedro Gallese behind a back line of the only four healthy defenders on the team: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Michael Halliday. Uri Rosell got his first start in central midfield alongside Junior Urso, with Perea and Silvester van der Water shuttling the ball forward into the attack, featuring Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel up top.
The first good look of the match went to Chicago out of nowhere. Przemyslaw Frankowski got his head onto a long ball in the box and headed just over the bar and onto the roof of the net in the fifth minute.
The Lions got their first shot on a Michel header on a free kick service from van der Water, but his effort was hit weakly into the turf in front of Bobby Shuttleworth for an easy save. In the 17th minute, Urso headed on goal off a corner kick but Shuttleworth fought it off. Michel followed and saw his shot cleared off the line.
Perea sent van der Water into the area in the 21st minute but the Dutchman hit his right-footed effort at Shuttleworth.
The Lions did a good job deflecting Chicago shots, including a potentially dangerous one by Beric in the 28th minute.
Orlando got forward off a cleared corner kick in the 30th minute and Michel ended up with the ball and made a nice move around a defender but another deflected his shot out for a corner. On the ensuing set piece, Schlegel nodded it weakly at Shuttleworth.
The breakthrough came in the 34th minute when Halliday got down the right flank and sent a cross into the area. A defender got a touch on it but couldn’t prevent it from reaching Perea, who smashed it up under the bar for his first MLS goal to make it 1-0.
“I’m really happy for my first goal with Orlando City,” Perea said, but added that the result kind of took the shine off of it. “Everybody’s sad because we had the chances to score in the first half, and maybe in the beginning of the second half.”
Most of the remainder of the half was played in the middle of the pitch until Chicago earned a couple of late corners. Orlando dealt with them but then switched off at the worst possible moment.
At the death of the first half, Smith strayed too far from Sekulic and Alvaro Medran made him pay for it. Urso was a step slow in closing down Chicago’s playmaker, who sent an inch-perfect cross over Smith that Sekulic nodded back across goal over Austin and in to tie the match in stoppage time. It was essentially the last action of the half and the teams went to the locker room even at 1-1.
“It was tough to struggle for sure, because you have the game in control at that point and the half was about to end,” Pareja said about the late first-half goal. “And the lack of concentration that we had in that moment cost us the equalizer. So we just come into the half with that frustration. Obviously it was difficult. We have to be better.”
Orlando out-shot Chicago 8-7 in the first half (6-1 on target). Chicago led in corners (5-2), possession (52.4%-47.6%), and passing accuracy (79.5%-73.8%).
Michel should have restored the Orlando lead in the 47th minute. A nice passing play led to van der Water finding him on the left. Benji was alone against the goalkeeper but fired his shot right at Shuttleworth.
Chicago nearly took the lead in the 55th minute when Halliday blocked a pass but it bounced right back to a Fire player who then fed it across the goal for Beric to finish, but the flag was rightfully up. The Chicago striker was a step offside.
Van der Water got his head to a backside cross in the 58th and headed it softly back across goal where it bounced twice in lots of space before Chicago recovered it. No Lions were crashing that side of the goal and the Dutchman was visibly upset when he saw that. Three minutes later, van der Water got to the end line first and kicked a high ball back into the area. Akindele got to it but headed it right at the goalkeeper on another wasted chance.
Michel freed himself for a shot in the 63rd minute and looked as if he’d finally score, but his shot hit the heel of a lunging Fire defender and deflected just over the bar. The Orlando Homegrown showed his frustration after the shot went harmlessly out of play.
At this point in the game, van der Water and Rosell especially looked winded and in need of a sub, but Pareja held his changes. That turned out to be costly.
Beric fired over the bar in the 71st after two Lion defenders prevented each other from clearing a corner kick delivery. The Fire forward got his goal a minute later, though. Medran fed a simple ball straight up the middle that hit him in stride. Smith kept Beric onside on the run and Jansson couldn’t get a foot on the ball to redirect the pass. Beric finished past Austin and gave Chicago a 2-1 lead in the 72nd minute.
Pareja brought on Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, and Sebas Mendez in the 76th minute but at that point the Lions were chasing the game. Pareja waited three additional minutes to send Chris Mueller — the team’s hottest player entering the match — into the game.
Urso went for the spectacular in the 86th and damn near got it. The Bear went up and smashed a bicycle kick on target but Shuttleworth was there to make the save. Two minutes later, Mueller sent a dangerous cross through the six-yard box but none of the three Lions crashing could give it the touch it needed to get in.
Smith had a good look in the 94th minute but his shot sailed over the bar. Two minutes later, the Fire put it away. Smith’s cross into the box was too low and easily cut out and the Fire countered. Mendez was unable to commit the necessary professional foul to prevent the break, and the hosts headed down field with numbers in behind the Orlando defense, which was pushed up to chase the tying goal. Offor finished the play and made it 3-1.
OFFOR WITH THE EXCLAMATION POINT ‼️ pic.twitter.com/XsQ8ypBOXb— Chicago Fire FC (@ChicagoFire) July 8, 2021
“You know, I think we had a lot of opportunities and then just maybe lost focus a couple times in the back,” Smith said. “And at the end of the game we were pushing forward. They got another goal, a little disappointed. But yeah, we just have to move on to the next game and get a good week of training in and get back on the winning streak.”
Orlando City finished with more shots (19-13), more shots on goal (9-4), more possession (53.1%-46.9%), and greater passing accuracy (79.1%-79%). Chicago held a slight edge in corners won (9-8).
“We have to keep going because there’s more than, 20 games left,” Pareja said. “Our objectives (don’t) change and our vision and desire is going to be the same.”
“It’s a game that, it’s just gonna make us better,” Perea said. “We’re gonna keep our feet on the ground, keep developing the team, (and) keep learning from this.”
The Lions now get a bit of time to rest and heal up with the next game set for July 17 against Toronto. At this point in time, that’s another “road match” at Exploria Stadium.