Preview: Chicago Fire (a).
When? Wednesday July 7, 5 p.m. PT, 8 p.m. ET and 1.00 a.m. BST.
Where? Soldier Field, Chicago, IL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast on UniMas for residents of the United States. Radio commentary is available via FM 96.9 The Game, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM. For us UK folk, the game is being broadcast on FreeSports (Freeview channel 64, and the FreeSports app).
There's nothing better, after a defeat, than having an opportunity to put things right almost immediately. Whilst an away day in Chicago is never an easy game - it certainly hasn't been for us in the past - it might be just the tonic that Orlando need. Raphaël Wicky's side will be full of confidence, following their demolition of the Plastics, over the weekend. A win, in the Windy City, would be something of a statement win for the Lions; yet another sign that this club means business.
Orlando, under Oscar Pareja, tend to react well to defeats. Of the 7 times they have lost under Pareja's tutelage (not including last weekend's defeat), Orlando have bounced back with a draw or a win on 6 occasions. The outlier being the MLS Is Back final defeat to Portland, which was followed up by another reversal in Fort Lauderdale. 'If you strike me down, and I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine'; is what I like to think Oscar Pareja says to other coaches.
Chicago, it's safe to say, are a real Jekyll and Hyde team. It wasn't that long ago, about two weeks actually, that they slumped to a 0-1 home defeat to Cincinnati. And then, last weekend, they thumped Atlanta. Inconsistent is the word. Overall, they're a possession based team; they've held more than 50% of the play in 8 of their 11 regular season games so far. Bizarrely, only 1 of their 2 wins came when having the lion's share of possession, which was their 1-0 win over Fort Lauderdale. During their win over Atlanta, Chicago had just 34% of the possession (figure 1). Strange. They're comfortable having possession, yet there's an argument to say they're less effective when they do.
Make no mistake, however, this is going to be a difficult game. This is a team that likes to play attacking football, taking 14.8 shots, and completing 8.7 dribbles per game (figure 2). They have dangerous players, such as Luka Stojanovic, who aren't afraid to drive forward, and advance the ball. That being said, they also allow opportunities too, allowing an average of 12.7 shots per game. With an XGA rating of 1.45, and an XG of 1.84; they're just as likely to concede a few, as they are to score a few.
Figure 1 shows Chicago's possession statistics (left) from their win over the Plastics, whole 90.
Figure 2 shows Chicago's attacking averages, on the season so far.
The Fire have a number of absentees for this game; Orlando's first visit to Soldier Field. Chicago are without Stanislav Ivanov, Kenneth Kronholm and Carlos Teran are all carrying injuries. Gastón Giménez is currently still away on international duty.
Orlando City, meanwhile, continue to be without Sebas Mendez and Pedro Gallese. Ruan is still expected to sit out, as are Joao Mourinho and Alexandre Pato. There was no update, at the time of writing, on the fitness of Antonio Carlos, but I'd be surprised to see him involved in this game.*
*EDIT (6/6/21): Antonio Carlos has provided an update via his Instagram account. He expects to be out until the Toronto game:
Possible starting XI
The Fire have used a number of different formations this year, including the 4-2-3-1 and the 5-3-2. They have some real success, however, with a 3 back system against Atlanta. As such, I can see them sticking with a familiar system against ourselves. I think Luka Stojanovic comes back in, after his rest at the weekend. Other than that, I think they'll remain unchanged:
Luka Stojanovic has impressed in Chicago's midfield so far this season. The former Apollon Limassol midfielder has made 10 appearances, starting 7 and totalling 594 minutes. The Fire no. 8 currently leads the team in goals, with 3. He's also added 1 further assist. The 27-year-old Serbian is your classic box-to-box, goal-scoring midfielder. He's taken 19 total shots in 2021, making for 15.79% conversion rate. During 2 years with Serbian club FK Čukarički, Stojanovic notched 20 goals in 64 games. Almost a goal every 3 games; you don't need me to tell you how impressive a rate that is. Orlando will need to track his runs from deep, particularly when Chicago gets the ball in wide areas.
Chicago head into this game with a little bit of wind in their sails. A comprehensive 3-0 win over Atlanta, will have given the Fire a timely confidence boost. The Fire are currently 2-2-7 on the season so far, and currently sit 12th in the East. The Fire are unbeaten in 2, and have picked up a highly credible 4 points from games against Atlanta and the Philadelphia Union, scoring 6 goals in the process.
Prior to their second defeat of the season, Orlando had won 3 games on the spin. Those 3 games were sandwiched between defeats to the Red Bulls. Despite those setbacks, Orlando still sit second in the East, 3 points further back from New England Revolution in first. Orlando are 6-3-2 on the season, and will be desperate for 3 points in this game, to ensure they don't lose anymore ground at the top.
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