Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Saturday night match-up between Orlando City (1-0-0 3 points) and the Chicago Fire (0-0-1, 1 point) at Soldier Field (6 p.m., FOX 35 Plus). This is the first of two scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2021 and the only match-up in Chicago. The Fire will make the return trip to Orlando on Saturday, April 9.
Here’s a look at tonight’s match-up.
The Lions are 4-5-5 in 13 MLS meetings with the Fire and 4-6-5 in all competitions. Orlando City is 2-3-2 against the Fire on the road in MLS play and 2-4-2 in all competitions in the Windy City.
The teams last met on Aug. 21 in Orlando, with a second-half Benji Michel strike lifting the Lions to a 1-0 victory. Tesho Akindele set up the play by forcing a turnover. In the last meeting at Soldier Field, the Fire got the better of the Lions to the tune of 3-1 on July 7 of last year. 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 in Orlando on Sept. 19, 2020. 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 Orlando.) The Lions got goals from Chris Mueller, Nani, Junior Urso, and 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 in the series. 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 regular-season finale. Orlando got goals from 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 strikes 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 will be playing their first away game of 2022 and the match will be Chicago’s home opener. Orlando has previously played its first road match of the year in Chicago in March of 2019 in the 1-1 draw and this will mark the third time the Lions have met the Fire in the second game of an MLS season. Orlando went 5-7-5 in road games during the 2020 regular season and is 8-10-9 in regular-season road games under Oscar Pareja. The Fire were 7-5-5 at home in 2021, including that easy win over Orlando in early July.
Whereas Orlando City is coming off a 2-0 home win over CF Montreal on Sunday, the Fire traveled to Inter Miami on Saturday and settled for a 0-0 draw. That’s not a bad result for a team that went just 2-13-2 away from Soldier Field a year ago.
The Lions will have to be especially concentrated against Designated Players Kacper Przybylko and Xherdan Shaqiri. Przybylko led the Fire with three shots last weekend at Miami and the former Philadelphia Union striker has six goals in five career matches against Orlando. The Lions have struggled to deal with Przybylko’s size and strength on crosses from the wings. Shaqiri is widely considered one of the best signings in MLS this past off-season and he contributed five key passes against the Herons in his Chicago debut. Young Orlando midfielders like Cesar Araujo, Sebas Mendez, and Andres Perea will need to be vigilant against the crafty veteran. The Fire also have dangerous players in Fabian Herbers and Stanislav Ivanov, while right back Boris Sekulic delivered four key passes last weekend and already has a career goal against the Lions.
“(We’re) looking forward to a match in Chicago against a good team with a new coach and certainly a good footballers that had a good game also in their visit in Miami,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said in his pre-match press conference. “Our expectations (are) always the same — trying to go and fight for those three points.”
The Lions will be without starting center back Robin Jansson, who was sent off after being shown a second yellow card late in the game against Montreal. Fullback Michael Halliday is off of the injury report, meaning all Lions other than Jansson should be available for selection. According to the team’s match report, Chicago will be without Carlos Terán (right thigh), while Victor Bezerra (right ankle) and Rafael Czichos (right thigh) are 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.
- Dave Rohe gave his three keys to an Orlando victory over Chicago.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Junior Urso.
Attacking Midfielders: Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres.
Forward: Alexandre Pato.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Thomas Williams, Sebas Mendez, Joey DeZart, Andres Perea, Tesho Akindele, Ercan Kara.
Chicago Fire (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Gabriel Slonina.
Defenders: Miguel Navarro, Rafael Czichos, Wyatt Omsberg, Boris Sekulic.
Defensive Midfielders: Gaston Gimenez, Mauricio Pineda.
Attacking Midfielders: Fabian Herbers, Xherdan Shaqiri, Stanislav Ivanov.
Forward: Kacper Przybylko.
Bench: Spencer Richey, Jonathan Bornstein, Jhon Espinoza, Kendall Burks, Brian Gutierrez, Javier Casas, Federico Navarro, Chinonso Offor, Jhon Duran.
Ref: Ismir Pekmic.
AR1: Jason White.
AR2: Tyler Wyrostek.
4th: Matthew Thompson.
VAR: Sorin Stoica.
How to Watch
Match Time: 6 p.m. ET.
Venue: Soldier Field — Chicago.
TV: FOX 35 Plus (local only).
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (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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