Preview: Chicago Fire (a).
Updated: Mar 4
When? Saturday 5 March, 3 p.m. PT, 6 p.m. ET and 11 p.m. GMT.
Where? Soldier Field, Chicago, IL.
How can I catch the action? MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of North America. For residents of the Orlando area, Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast. FreeSports already has their schedule set, so keep an eye on Sky Sports.
Out of the frying pan and into the Fire, eh boys? No? OK, I'll see myself out. You all know by now, I love a lame joke. Anyway, let's get stuck into what promises to be a fascinating encounter. The Fire have added Xherdan Shaqiri to their ranks, as they look to spark the franchise into life after a fairly insepid few years.
This game will be a tough test for Orlando City, both in terms of the opposition and how they manage the conditions. With the temperature set to be sub 60f, the Lions are set to battle the elements in the Windy City, as well as a massively improved Fire squad.
It's still early days as far as Ezra Hendrickson's reign is concerned. Their 0-0 draw in Fort Lauderdale did a little to shed some light on how this team is going to look going forward, however.
Against David Beckham FC, they tried to dominate the ball, maintaining 59.1% of the overall play. They worked the ball into some interesting areas and gave their more creative players license to run at the opposition; with Stanislav Ivanov (3), Shaqiri (2) and Pineda (2) all completing multiple dribbles in dangerous areas (figure 1).
Overall, they completed 16 dribbles as a team, and got off just as many shots. The only thing missing was a goal. There were several instances, where a better finish, or a better decision could've resulted in a goal for Chicago. There are great examples in figures 2 and 3. In figure 2, Ivanov seems to get caught in two minds. He needs to just finesse his shot towards the right hand corner. And in figure 3, Kacper Przybylko just needs to get a fuller contact on the ball. Fine margins.
Chicago did a great job of getting the ball into dangerous areas, particularly out wide. That could be something that Orlando will need to negate in this game. Particularly with the likes of Shaqiri delivering crosses to Przybylko. And we all know how dangerous he is in those situations, having witnessed him putting Orlando to the sword in Philadelphia last season.
Figure 1 shows Chicago's successful dribble positioning matrix, whole 90.
Figure 2 is a game still showing one of Ivanov's first half chances.
Figure 3 is a game still showing a chance missed by Przybylko.
At the time of writing, Carlos Terán had been ruled out of this game, whilst Federico Navarro and Missael Rodriguez are both listed as questionable.
As for Orlando City, Michael Halliday is currently still listed as questionable. This section will be updated with any developments as we approach the game.
EDIT: 4/3/22: Michael Halliday is now fit, Robin Jansson's suspension has been confirmed.
Possible starting XI
Chicago are a team that possess a lot of attacking firepower this year, so I'd naturally expect them to set up in formation that enables them to capitalise on this. Against Fort Lauderdale, the Fire set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. As such, I think they will line-up a little like this:
Shaqiri has played for some of the world's biggest clubs, and to a very high level. He was seen as something of a coup for the Fire. And rightly so. The former Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Liverpool winger has 100 caps for the Swiss national team and 26 goals. His highly decorated honours list contains 2 Champions League victories, a Premier League title and multiple Bundesliga triumphs amongst others.
The Fire head into this game off the back of a goalless draw in Fort Lauderdale.
Meanwhile, Orlando City got 2022 off to a flyer with a comfortable win over CF Montréal.