Junior Urso thought he’d scored a goal late in the second half, but a lengthy video replay took it off the board and Orlando City was forced to settle for a 0-0 draw against the Fire at Soldier Field in Chicago. No replay shown on the Chicago Fire local broadcast showed any evidence of wrongdoing in the buildup but the goal was disallowed and the game ended in a draw.
The Lions (1-0-1, 4 points) have not won in Chicago since 2015, and now have a 4-5-6 record in the all-time series against the Fire (0-0-2, 2 points) and are just 2-3-3 in Chicago since entering MLS. That should have changed with Urso’s strike but once again the Lions were left wondering why a goal was pulled back.
“So disappointing with that decision from the referee,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I can’t understand at the end what is clear and obvious. We’re not happy with it. I guess we have to deal with it like always and understand this is a game. It may happen to anyone. I liked our intentions. I liked much better our second half in terms of how we used the spaces and how we created some collective plays there in a very physical match.”
“We are a little bit frustrated about the result today,” Urso said.
Pareja’s lineup was the same as last Sunday with two exceptions. Pedro Gallese was in net behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel (in for the suspended Robin Jansson), Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Urso took Andres Perea’s spot in the central midfield alongside Cesar Araujo. The attacking four remained the same: Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres underneath forward Alexandre Pato.
Orlando City came out pressing high and creating issues for the Fire but the Lions did nothing with the turnovers they created.
“The first four or five minutes of this game, I don’t know how to explain but (we were) like nervous, not scared but nervous in the game,” Urso said.
The Lions’ first shot came 14 minutes in and it was sent way off target by Torres from well outside the area. The best buildup for Orlando came at the 18-minute mark when Ruan found a diagonal run by Pato but the pass was a bit behind the forward and the spin took it off his foot and allowed the defense to clear.
Gallese made his first save in the 19th minute off a corner kick that was cleared out of the box. A long-range shot came fizzing back in on goal but El Pulpo tipped it over the bar.
The Lions survived a flurry of corner kicks and settled back into the game. Fabian Herbers took Ruan down hard in transition on one of them and received only a yellow for a cynical and intentional foul.
Pato had a chance to get in on goal in the 25th minute but took a heavy touch just outside the area and tried to corral it at the goal line but lost it out for a goal kick.
Orlando City struggled to connect in the attacking half. Ruan ignored multiple runs by Torres and sent balls to areas he expected the Uruguayan to run into but a different run was made. Several attempts to get balls over the top were hit too hard in the gusting wind and skipped harmlessly out of play.
Xherdan Shaqiri sent a ball in from way outside the box on the right but it was right at Gallese. The Orlando keeper made a save on Herbers in the 41st minute when he collected the ball just inside the top of the area, turned, and sent a soft shot on goal. It was the last look at goal for either side in the half.
Chicago finished the half with more shots (4-2), shots on goal (2-0), corners (4-2), and possession (56.1%-43.9%), and the higher passing accuracy (72.1%-69.4%). Neither of the Lions’ shots were from inside the area and only a Herbers effort for Chicago was from within the penalty box.
Just after the break, Pereyra and Gaston Gimenez traded shots from distance that were well off target, as the gusty night continued to give both teams issues.
Pareja sent Akindele on for Michel in the 52nd as his first sub. Michel had been doing well defensively but his passing and hold-up play all evening was lacking.
Schlegel conceded a set piece in the 53rd minute and Shaqiri’s delivery was blocked by Akindele. The ball bounced back to the Chicago Designated Player but his heavy touch prevented him from creating anything off of the block.
Ruan sent in a dangerous cross in the 55th minute that Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina had trouble with and nearly bounced to Urso for an easy tap in. Slonina was able to re-gather the aerial ball before it got through.
Ercan Kara replaced Pato in the 72nd minute and played a key role in Urso’s would-be game-winner a minute later. The Austrian chested an aerial ball in the box down to Akindele, who sent the ball left to Torres at the top of the area. Torres laid the ball off for the onrushing Urso, who fired a shot headed toward goal. The ball deflected off a defender, leaving Slonina going the wrong way.
The goal looked to have no issues, but then referee Ismir Pekmic went to the monitor to take a look. Pekmic took a long time looking at the video, which appeared on the broadcast to be the same footage the viewers at home were getting. Neither angle showed any clear evidence that the goal shouldn’t have counted.
“Yeah, that for us is really strange,” Urso said of the overturned goal. “It’s different for us because we know the rules. We have to cancel the goal if you are sure. If the image of the VAR is clean. I think the referee was there a long time to watch what happened but (it wasn’t) clear. And then he was reviewing for like three minutes, I don’t know, four minutes. And then he said, ‘No goal,’ but I think he can’t do that because the rule is that it has to be clear to cancel the goal. So, for us that’s not good. We are frustrated about that, but we can’t do anything. We have to respect the referee and MLS, so let’s try to do our best next time.”
Six minutes later, Araujo appeared to be elbowed in the head and Jhon Duran was shown a yellow card. Pekmic seemed fine with allowing Video Assistant Referee Sorin Stoica to handle that call rather than looking at the monitor himself as he had done a few minutes earlier. The yellow card stood.
The last several minutes, Pekmic, who had let a lot of fouls go both ways, despite still calling a lot in this physical match, got card happy and started giving out bookings left and right.
Disaster nearly struck in the 85th minute as Shaqiri was able to pick out striker Kacper Przybylko in the box but the Designated Player was flat footed and his header didn’t have the power or placement to beat Gallese.
After a soft yellow on Araujo and one on Gallese for time wasting — while Orlando was the team more on the front foot — the game went to six minutes of stoppage time. Second-half sub Brian Gutierrez nearly stole the game in the 92nd when he went up over Ruan to head a Shaqiri cross toward goal. His shot sailed mercifully over the bar.
A late set piece delivery was headed wide by Carlos and the match ended at 0-0.
Chicago finished with more shots (9-5), shots on goal (4-0), corners (5-3), and possession (51.6%-48.4%), while Orlando finished with more passing accuracy (72.8%-71.7%).
“That control that we had in the second half allowed us to get closer to our goal and actually score one,” Pareja said. “So we’re going to take this point as a part of our process. I’m proud of the players that came in a difficult field and difficult match, and had a good performance.”
With his clean sheet, Gallese moved to within one of Joe Bendik’s regular-season club career record of 13, but he tied Bendik in all competitions, posting his 13th shutout across all matches.
The teams combined for 35 fouls — 21 by Chicago — and those numbers should have been much higher.
“We tried in the second half just to create more sequences but the game became very choppy for both teams and physical,” Pareja said. “I’m proud of the players because it’s not easy to go away in a difficult environment and match that physicality that Chicago brought to the game.”
“It was a really physical game,” Urso said. “We train a lot to play like 100% every ball. So, I think Chicago did the same today. They were like fighting for every chance. And I think it was like a crazy game for me, because we were more fighting than playing.”
The Lions return home next Saturday to host FC Cincinnati at 7:30 p.m. at Exploria Stadium.