Following a gritty comeback midweek, Orlando City will try to get back to winning ways in the comfortable confines of Exploria Stadium. Tomorrow will be the Lions’ second and final regular season match-up of the year with the Chicago Fire.
The Fire have had a damn good August so far, and were unbeaten in the four games they played before falling to Miami midweek. What has Chicago done best during that period?
Patrick McCraney: In the four games before Wednesday night, the Fire never switched off defensively. They did the little things to stop their opponents from scoring. Wednesday night against Inter Miami, it was a different story. At least two of Miami’s three goals were due to careless marking, and a failure to clear a simple ball. If the Fire make those mistakes against Orlando, they’ll be punished again.
With the Fire nabbing recent wins over two teams that were above them in the table in Columbus and NYRB and beginning to climb up in the standings, what do you think the expectations should be at the end of the season for Chicago?
PM: The club’s sporting director, Georg Heitz, has said making the playoffs is the goal for 2021, so I continue to hold them to that. At the moment, they’re seven points back of Montreal for the final playoff spot, with a few teams to leapfrog, and, thanks to the Bears, with most of their remaining games on the road. The playoffs are still possible, but it’s not looking good. And, honestly, shouldn’t making the playoffs be the bare minimum for any team in this league?
The match in Orlando is the second in a brutal six game road stretch for the Fire. What number of points do Chicago need to take from this stretch for you to consider it a success?
PM: There’s that old idea that if you win your home games and you draw your road games, and you should be good to go in MLS. By that measure, the Fire would need six points on this trip. Actually, though, I think they need 9-10. They dug themselves a giant hole at the beginning of the season, and now they have to fix things. It’s been nearly two years since the Fire have won a road game. The last time? Bastian Schweinsteiger’s last game — the 5-2 win over Orlando City to end the 2019 season.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
PM: The Fire might be without Ignacio Aliseda, but I don’t believe there are any other injuries to worry about.
A guess at the XI (3-5-2): Bobby Shuttleworth; Francisco Calvo, Mauricio Pineda, Carlos Teran; Jonathan Bornstein, Gaston Gimenez, Fabian Herbers, Luka Stojanovic, Boris Sekulic; Chinonso Offor, Stanislav Ivanov.
As for a score? 2-1 Orlando.
Big thanks to Patrick for the insight on Chicago. Vamos Orlando!