Orlando City starts phase two with a third home match in a row against the struggling Chicago Fire.
Welp. 2020 really has come full circle. The team that was set to face us on March 14th at Exploria Stadium will finally make the trip down south 190 days late. The two teams, who had similar seasons in 2019, have had VERY different 2020 seasons. Orlando City have turned their fortunes around under new coach Oscar Pareja while the newly branded Chicago Fire have had a disappointing 2020 thus far.
The Fire, under new coach Raphael Wicky, have gone 2-3-6 (W-D-L) and are currently on a 4 game winless run. To me, this has been surprising as I really liked the squad they built during preseason. They had 3 DP slots open and filled all 3 of them with quality players. The move to Soldier Field under new ownership was supposed to be a catalyst for a stronger season than in recent memory but something just hasn't clicked yet. It's not a stretch to say that Orlando goes into this one the clear favorites.
1. Do not underestimate them
I know I just said that we are the clear favorites but Chicago's results have not merited their overall play in my opinion. I have watched a few of their games and they have been pretty solid. Similar to Miami though, they seem to lose a lot of their matches on the margins. For example, they were up 2-0 within 15 minutes against the league-leading Columbus Crew before they let up two second-half goals to lose their lead. The 88th-minute equalizer for Columbus will particularly sting as it was a lucky deflection that put the ball in Zardes' path. The thing is, Columbus was their most recent match. The Fire will have that failure fresh in their minds and will get a chance to make it right against another top team in the East on Saturday.
Like I said earlier, Chicago have dangerous players in dangerous areas. DP striker Robert Beric has good hold-up play and when presented with a chance, he will take it. No doubt in my mind. Gaston Gimenez is a solid defensive midfielder who was an ever-present player in a team that finished third in the Argentinian Superliga last year. Mihailovic and Aliseda are good wingers who can hurt you on their day. Overall, I've personally liked what I've seen from Chicago, it just hasn't clicked for yet. Hopefully Saturday is more of the same.
2. We've got our own chip on our shoulders
Don't forget the end of last year when Chicago spanked us 5-2 at home in front of our fans. It was an ugly way to end another disappointing season. A lot of our players will remember that game. Michel, Tesho, Nani, Pereyra, Uri, Miller, Jansson, Smith, and Ruan all started that game. I truly hope the boys go out there and put on an inspired performance to make up for what happened last year.
3. Overload the left
LISTEN. I need Nani starting. I need Pereyra drifting to the left inside channel. I need Dike sitting on their RCB (probably Mauricio Pineda). I need Kyle fucking Smith making overlaps. I need Uri/Mendez/Urso making underlaps. Want to know why? Of course you do. It's because their RB Boris Sekulic loves, and I mean LOVES, to bomb forward and leave his flank exposed. It's a clear part of their attacking gameplan and I say we fight fire with fire. Sit Nani in that space behind Sekulic and when we win the ball, find Pereyra in the middle instantly. His job will be to turn and find Nani, who should be one on one with Pineda, who is covering Sekulic's space. Dike shows for a pass on the inside and they do a quick one-two. Mueller scores a tap-in after Nani sweats the ball to the back post and the crowd goes wild. I PROMISE you we will see a goal of that nature on Saturday if Chicago is dumb enough to send Sekulic all the way up the pitch.
I think they will be. Here's Sekulic's last three heat maps.
We must take advantage of the space behind him and with Nani over there, I think Saturday could get ugly if Chicago isn't careful. Look for Nani to have a big game.
Time: 7:30 PM EST
Where to Watch: ESPN+ (out of market), Fox35 (local)
Stadium: Exploria Stadium
Team News (ORL): Dwyer (out), Aias (unavailable), Moutinho (out)
Team News (CHI): Kronholm (out), Stojanovic (out), Kappelhof (out), Gutjahr (out), Collier (questionable)
Predicted Lineup: (4-2-3-1) Gallese, Ruan, Carlos, Jansson, Smith, Mendez, Uri, Mueller, Pereyra, Nani, Dike
Score Prediction: 3-1 Win
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'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando