• Dan Berridge

Analysis: Chicago Fire (h). Walking wounded come up trumps, in huge win.

The word 'character' is a severely overused cliché in the world of football. Just ask Brendan Rodgers, seeing as he basically invented the word. You definitely heard that in his thick, Northern Irish accent, right? Character. Despite its status as the most hackneyed soccer word of all time, it's a particularly apt elucidation of this team's performance. Having lost Nani 30 minutes into the game, it would be so easy for this team to have crumbled. They were already without the likes of Pedro Gallese, Sebas Mendez and Mauricio Pereyra. Not to mention Daryl Dike and Pato. But they weren't to be deterred. They showed great character to soldier on and get the dub.


The character of this team was epitomised in the winning goal, Tesho Akindele superbly won the ball in a great area, before supplying Benji Michel who cracked a low shot beyond the sprawling Chicago goalkeeper. I'm deliberately overusing the word character by the way, just like the Star Wars saga overuses R2-D2. Anyway, t was an excellent goal, and far from an easy chance; mlssoccer.com rated the chance at 3.41% XG, which tells its own tale really. The win elevated Orlando back into 2nd spot in the east and, crucially, a home play-off berth at a vital stage of the season. When the games come thick and fast, as they do at this stage of the marathon that is a Major League Soccer season, you want to be going into every game in a position of strength. Thanks to this win, Orlando will do just that when Fort Lauderdale come to town next weekend.

Orlando's effective use of the high press


Sometimes, especially when you're missing as many key pieces as Orlando are, you have to win the physical battle to earn the right to play. This is often the case when so many creative players are missing, as many opposing teams will try to stifle the forward line, knowing there's a drop off in quality. Whilst Chicago attempted to do this, by sitting with a low-block, Orlando were great at hustling their back line. Orlando utilised a high press well, which resulted in a number of turnovers in the Chicago half. Orlando actually won 6 tackles, made 5 blocks and completed 4 interceptions in the Chicago half (figures 1-3). And they made it pay.


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This was a particularly effective tactic for Orlando, especially when you consider the energy of both Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel. They were always liable to force a mistake, and then it was up to the Lions' front line to make it count. They did exactly that with the goal. You'll notice from the clip in figure 4, that Michel is primed to go as soon as Tesho wins that ball. It's clearly something they were conscious of, particularly as Chicago like to build out from the back; 27% of their overall ball possession on the season so far has been in their own defensive third.

Figure 1 shows Orlando's tackle completion map.

Figure 2 shows Orlando's block map, whole 90.

Figure 3 shows Orlando's pass interception map, whole 90.

Looking after the ball


Whilst, generally speaking, Orlando took care of the ball well, there were periods of the game where Orlando's sloppy play allowed Chicago to build sustained periods of possession, particularly in the latter stages of the game. Orlando had a possession average of 47.2%, but allowed long periods of possession from the 70th minute onwards (figure 5). During that time (from the 70th minute onwards), Orlando's pass success rate was a lowly 65%, with Orlando only holding 27.3% of the ball during that period. This allowed Chicago to apply late pressure on the Orlando goal, pressure that forced several key stops from Mason Stajduhar...


The performance of Mason Stajduhar


I've seen a little criticism aimed at Stajduhar, and not just centred around the goal he conceded against Santos Laguna. I find this criticism a little baffling to be honest. Considering the circumstances in which he's been thrust into this team, I feel he has performed remarkably well. Whilst he hasn't made too many huge saves, he hasn't really had to. Not until Saturday's game, anyway. He chalked up an 8.32 rating on whoscored.com, making 3 aerial claims, having a pass completion rate of 83.3% and making 5 saves. His 2 saves late in the game sealed the points for Orlando. Hopefully his performance will go someway to addressing any concerns among supporters.

Top player


Antonio Carlos


I don't think there are adequate superlatives to accurately describe how good the big Brazilian has been for Orlando City of late. He was in typically imperious form in this game; he made 2 tackles, completed 1 interception and made 10 clearances. He also posted an 85.2% pass success rate from 54 attempts, as the Lions attempted to play out from the back. He was also 10 for 12 in long balls, as he helped Orlando to stretch the play and escape Chicago's press. It's an absolute disgrace that he's not going to the All-Star game.


Player ratings


Starting XI


Stajduhar -8- Confident performance from the 'keeper.


Ruan -7- Felt more like the Ruan of old, providing solid width.

Antonio Carlos -8- Superb display.

Jansson -7- Typically rugged performance from the Swede.

Moutinho -7- Solid enough performance.


DeZart -7- Recycled possession well.

Urso -7- Combative performance as per.


Nani -6- Succumbed to injury in the first half, we're all hoping he's OK.

Michel -7- Took his goal really well.

Van Der Water -7- Seemed confident, and really found his rhythm at times.


Akindele -7- Hustled well, and was rewarded with a superb assist.


Substitutes


Más -6- Came in late and helped to see the game out.

Schlegel -6- Helped to shore things up at a critical moment.

Mueller -7- Provided some good energy.

Aguilera -6- Hardly had a kick, but was good to see him make his debut.


*All statistics courtesy of mlssoccer.com and whoscored.com

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