Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (8-4-7, 31 points) and the Chicago Fire (5-10-5, 20 points) at Exploria Stadium (8 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). This is the second of two scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2021 and the only match-up in Orlando.
The Lions are unbeaten in four league matches (1-0-3) but also winless in three straight MLS games and four in all competitions (0-1-3), not having won since a July 30 comeback against Atlanta. Orlando City last played Wednesday night, drawing 1-1 at Nashville — the team’s third consecutive 1-1 draw. Chicago had gone four matches without a loss (2-0-2) until losing at Inter Miami in the midweek, 3-2. The Fire blew a 2-1 lead in that match and held a point in their hands until conceding in the 93rd minute.
The Lions are 3-5-5 in 13 MLS meetings with the Fire and 3-6-5 in all competitions. Orlando City is just 1-2-3 against the Fire at home.
The teams last met on July 7 at Soldier Field, where the Fire got the better of the Lions to the tune of 3-1. Andres Perea scored his first career MLS goal to open the scoring but a defensive lapse in first-half stoppage allowed Boris Sekulic to equalize just before the break. Chicago rode that momentum, adding goals by Robert Beric and Chinonso Offor.
The Lions were 0-4-4 in the eight meetings before smashing the Fire 4-1 on Sept. 19, 2020. in the last time the teams met in Orlando. Orlando City withstood two Chicago penalties and saw two Fire goals overturned by video review in that rain-soaked match. (Weird things usually happen when Chicago visits.) The Lions got goals from Chris Mueller, Nani, Junior Urso, and Benji Michel while Chicago had only a Beric penalty to show for an otherwise good offensive performance.
The last meeting of 2019 was the last time the Fire won on the road. It was a debacle for the Lions, who lost defender Robin Jansson to a back/neck 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 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 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.
The Lions have put together a record of 5-1-3 in home matches in 2021, while Chicago is 0-6-1 away from Soldier Field. The Fire are on an insane 0-12-6 road winless skid with their last away win coming — you guessed it — at Orlando City on Oct. 6, 2019 in a 5-2 match that was James O’Connor’s last game as OCSC coach.
Chicago is led by Serbian midfielder Luka Stojanović’s seven goals this season. Argentinian winger Ignacio Aliseda has three goals on the season. Slovenian Designated Player striker Robert Beric has only two goals so far this season but one of those was against Orlando, because obviously, and he is always a threat. Spanish midfielder Alvaro Medran has a team-high five assists and always plays extremely well against Orlando. Medran played only one minute at Miami so he’ll be rested.
Orlando City must not lose defensive concentration for even a moment. Chicago hasn’t been prolific offensively for much of the season, but they have gifted skill players and Medran can pick them out in an instant. On the other end, well, it would be helpful if the Lions could score more than one goal to help a defense that has been mostly solid, despite a dearth of clean sheets in the summer months — the last time Orlando shut out an opponent was June 22 vs. San Jose.
The Lions will be without Sebas Mendez, Alexandre Pato, and Uri Rosell — all with “lower body injuries.” Nani, Mauricio Pereyra — who started and played 84 minutes Wednesday — and Pedro Gallese are all listed as questionable with the same. Daryl Dike continues to not be on the availability report despite Pareja saying he’s been dealing with a shoulder injury and tendinitis, so your guess is as good as any on whether he’ll be in the lineup.
Chicago will be without Ignacio Aliseda (left shin) and Kenneth Kronholm (right knee), while Carlos Terán (right thigh) is listed as questionable.
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: Mason Stajduhar.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Midfielders: Benji Michel, Andres Perea Junior Urso, Silvester van der Water.
Forwards: Nani, Tesho Akindele.
Bench: Pedro Gallese, Michael Halliday, Kyle Smith, Emmanuel Mas, Rodrigo Schlegel, Rio Hope-Gund, Raul Aguilera Jr., Alexander Alvarado, Chris Mueller.
Chicago Fire (3-5-2)
Goalkeeper: Bobby Shuttleworth.
Defenders: Francisco Calvo, Mauricio Pineda, Carlos Teran.
Wingbacks/Midfielders: Miguel Navarro, Luka Stojanovic, Gaston Gimenez, Fabian Herbers, Boris Sekulic.
Forwards: Stanislav Ivanov, Robert Beric.
Bench: Brian Gutierrez, Jonathan Bornstein, Wyatt Omsberg, Johan Kappelhof, Elliot Collier, Gabriel Slonina, Jhon Espinoza, Alvaro Medran, Nnamdi Chinonso Offor.
Ref: Timothy Ford.
AR1: Matthew Nelson.
AR2: Ryan Graves.
4th: JC Griggs.
VAR: Alejandro Mariscal.
AVAR: Kyle Longville.
How to Watch
Match Time: 8 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Radio: 104.1 FM Real Radio (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can be streamed on ESPN+ although it will be blacked out locally as there is still not a local streaming agreement in place. It can also be streamed on the LionNation app.
Enjoy the game. Go City!
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