I’ve started out hot and it feels good. For those keeping track, you may have noticed my score prediction of 2-0 for Orlando vs Montreal. What’s that…. It was exactly right? Well of course it was! I know everything about this game! Regardless, what an opening day match for the Lions. A comforting 2-0 win over Montreal on a hot sunny day with an absolutely packed Exploria Stadium. Pato got his long-awaited first MLS goal, the midfield and defense looked solid, and new signings fit right into place. Orlando fans have good reason to be excited for this season.
The Lions now hit the road and will take on Chicago Fire FC on March 5th at 6pm at Soldier Field in Chicago. Right now, Chicago is lacking exactly what they are: fire. They stunk up the place in 2021, finishing well out of position for playoffs. Only two other clubs conceded more than them and they were the joint-leaders in lowest scoring. They opened this season with a draw vs Miami. Bleh. Boring. Ew. Why does this match have a draw written all over it, seriously? Orlando is clearly in better shape right now but Chicago is always a tough atmosphere to play in, and you have to think the Fire will try to suck the Lions into a boring, slow-paced match. Hopefully, Orlando gets a foothold on this game and sees it out.
Orlando City Stats
1-0-0, Top Goal Scorer: Pato/Michel Top Assister: Ruan/Pereyra, WLWDL
Chicago Fire Stats
0-0-1, Top Goal Scorer: N/A Top Assister: N/A, DLLWW
1. Shaqiri, Shaqiri!
What a huge signing for the Fire as their club record, but what a huge signing for the MLS in general. Shaqiri is a big name, a European champion with Bayern Munich and Liverpool, and lots of experience playing top-class soccer. That being said, he faces a lot of pressure coming in as this top signing and I know his workload is going to be massive from the start. Chicago needs an offensive boost very soon and he’s going to be the focal point of the attack. His left foot and low center of gravity make him dangerous; expect him to pop up on the right inside channel between the center back and left-back. If you can handle him, you may be able to put out the fire. He may pop up on the left from time to time, but he definitely favors the right side of the pitch.
2. Defensive A-Team + Sub
The defense looked superb against Montreal, basically snuffing out any chance after the initial 15 minutes were played. The only downside of everything was Jansson picking up two yellow cards, as he was given a red late in the game. Orlando will have to slide another center-back in there and he has got to be ready to play in a Chicago stadium that will remind him he is a substitute.
3. Prove Consistency Orlando fans on my timeline are really really happy about the way the team is playing, as they should! However, one main thing about Orlando last season was the flusters of inconsistency throughout the season. They started hot, ended poorly, and had to scramble to pick up enough points to make the playoffs, just to get bounced by Nashville. This is honestly a great checkpoint to see how serious they are. Play a FULL 90 at the pace and level you played in the second half against Montreal. Go beat up on a bad team that you know you can beat. Be more clinical in the final third, because let’s face it, you were not taking advantage of all your chances against Montreal. Chicago may park the bus and then counter through Shaqiri, who is still getting his feet wet in the MLS. Go out and prove that you’re an Eastern Conference contender.
A Look at Chicago Fire FC
~ most likely will operate in a 4-2-3-1
~ two holding midfielders to control the pace and flow of the game, break up play ~ fullbacks will attack almost like wingbacks, Orlando may need to approach this similarly
~ Opened the season with a 0-0 draw on the road vs Miami
~ Key Player to Watch: Shaqiri, going to operate on the right-wing or right below the striker, floating around creating chances and getting on the ball when he can
Score Prediction: Stuck in two minds here. My head says draw. It took Orlando a decent 50 minutes to break down Montreal. If Chicago parks the bus I’m going to get a headache. However, my heart says win! How could they not after that performance on Sunday? I’ve chosen to follow my heart. 1-0 Orlando, Pereyra with the lone goal. Vamos!