Welcome to your match thread and preview for a Saturday afternoon match-up between Orlando City (2-2-2, 8 points) and the Chicago Fire (2-0-3, 9 points) at Exploria Stadium (1 p.m., Univision, TUDN). This is the second of two scheduled meetings between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2021 and the only match-up in Orlando.
Here’s a look at tonight’s match-up.
The Lions are 4-5-6 in 15 MLS meetings with the Fire and 4-6-6 in all competitions. Orlando City is 2-2-3 against the Fire at home in MLS play.
The two sides met just over a month ago at Soldier Field and played, officially, to a 0-0 draw on March 5. The game is another Orlando City match that will live in infamy due to the Professional Referee Organization’s statement after the game that Junior Urso’s goal should not have been overturned upon video review due to Ercan Kara not having clearly and obviously handled the ball in the buildup in any of the available replay angles. Had that erroneous call not been made by Ismir Pekmic, the Lions could very well be on 10 points to Chicago’s eight and the Fire would likely not still be unbeaten. Alas…
The teams last met in Orlando on Aug. 21, 2021, 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 last year’s meeting at Soldier Field, the Fire got the better of the Lions to the tune of 3-1 on July 7. 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, 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 City was seconds away from a road win on March 9, 2019 before Sapong’s free header in the 95th minute leveled things in a 1-1 draw in Chicago. Dom Dwyer scored Orlando’s goal.
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 looking to snap a two-match home losing streak, in which the team has shipped six of the seven goals Orlando City has conceded this season. Orlando is 1-2-0 at home, with losses to FC Cincinnati and LAFC following a season-opening shutout win over Montreal. The Lions have largely outplayed everyone at home but have only one win in three tries to show for it. Making things tougher is the loss of Antonio Carlos for the next three or four months with a hamstring injury.
Chicago is 1-0-1 away from Soldier Field in 2022, having drawn in Miami on opening day and defeated D.C. United in the Fire’s most recent away game on March 12. Chicago is coming off a 0-0 home draw against FC Dallas — the Fire’s third scoreless draw of the season already. This seems like a much better Chicago team than the one that went 2-13-2 away from home last year.
The Lions will have to be especially concentrated against Designated Players Kacper Przybylko and — if he plays — Xherdan Shaqiri. Przybylko leads the Fire with two goals and 12 shots on the year. He’s fired twice as many shots as any other Chicago player. Fabian Herbers and Stanislav Ivanov are also dangerous attacking pieces. Rodrigo Schlegel and Jansson will have their hands full in central defense, although Schlegel played well in the first meeting against Chicago in place of the suspended Jansson.
Look for Chicago to foul early and often, as Orlando’s opponents have been doing all season. The Fire committed 21 of them at Soldier Field on March 5. The Lions must punish those fouls with quality set pieces and, since Chicago doesn’t allow many chances, Orlando will have to be clinical on the few they generate.
“We had a positive performance and and certainly a good result,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said of his team’s last meeting with Chicago. “Now we try to bounce back in terms of results but with the idea of just keeping our consistency on the good things we showed last game.”
In addition to Carlos being out, the Lions have Michael Halliday (left thigh) listed as questionable on the availability report. Chicago’s game notes show no one as out, with Rafael Czichos (health & safety protocols), Fabian Herbers (right hip), Miguel Navarro (left knee), and Xherdan Shaqiri (left calf) all listed as questionable.
Mandatory Match Content
- This week’s PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for tonight’s match.
- Our Michael Rice broke down the three things to watch for with the Chicago Fire in this match.
- Our Josh Munsey went inside the numbers with his statistical breakdown of this match.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Ruan.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Sebas Mendez.
Attacking Midfielders: Alexandre Pato, Mauricio Pereyra, Facundo Torres.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Kyle Smith, Thomas Williams, Joey DeZart, Andres Perea, Junior Urso, Tesho Akindele, Benji Michel, Jack Lynn.
Chicago Fire (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Gabriel Slonina.
Defenders: Jhon Espinoza, Jonathan Bornstein, Wyatt Omsberg, Boris Sekulic.
Defensive Midfielders: Gaston Gimenez, Mauricio Pineda.
Attacking Midfielders: Brian Gutierrez, Federico Navarro, Stanislav Ivanov.
Forward: Kacper Przybylko.
Bench: Javier Casas, Andre Reynolds, Spencer Richey, Nnamdi Chinonso Offor, Sergio Oregel Jr., Kendall Burks, Carlos Teran, Jhon Duran, Victor Bezerra.
Ref: Victor Rivas.
AR1: Jeffrey Swartzel.
AR2: Matthew Nelson.
4th: Elvis Osmanovic.
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.
AVAR: Craig Lowry.
How to Watch
Match Time: 1 p.m. ET.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: Telemundo, TUDN.
Radio: Real Radio 104.1 FM (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: The match can streamed on Univision Now and the TUDN app, as well as in English on Twitter.
Enjoy the game. Go City!