Chicago finally ended their winless run on Saturday, and they did it in style, defeating Atlanta United 3-0. It took some time for the Fire to get going, but two goals from Ignacio Aliseda before the half-time break put them ahead, and they never looked back. It was a big performance and win from the team, and they’ll now look to build upon that result in this game.
Orlando, meanwhile, were dealt a blow in their last game, as they lost at home to the New York Red Bulls. The Lions did equalize after going behind early, but they gave up another goal late on and were ultimately beaten by New York for a second time this season. Orlando still sits in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference standings, which is impressive, but they’ll want to pick up some points this time around in order to prevent a potential slide down the league table.
Not much has changed for Chicago when it comes to who's available for them. The likes of Kenneth Kronholm, Carlos Terán, and Stanislav Ivanov are all still injured, while Francisco Calvo is still on international duty with Costa Rica. There might be a major return to the team, though, as Gastón Giménez could feature after Paraguay was eliminated from the Copa América last weekend.
Things aren’t as bad for Orlando. The Brazilian pairing of Ruan and Alexandre Pato will both miss out through injury, and Daryl Dike is with the United States for the Gold Cup, but Pedro Gallese and Jhegson Sebastián Méndez might be able to return after their respective countries were eliminated from the Copa América.
Chicago Fire: Shuttleworth, Kappelhof, Pineda, Bornstein, Sekulić, Frankowski, Medrán, Herbers, Navarro, Berić, Aliseda
Orlando City: Austin, Halliday, Schlegel, Jansson, Smith, Urso, Perea, Mueller, Pereira, Nani, Akindele
Ones to watch
Are Chicago fans finally going to start seeing the best of Ignacio Aliseda?
Before this past weekend, his tenure with the Fire had been a poor one. Coming to the club with plenty of hype and fanfare, the then-19-year-old was signed as a young Designated Player. Clips of his speed and dribbling ability were all over social media, and fans were excited to see what the future had in store for both him and the team.
Things haven’t quite gone to plan ever since, though. Aliseda was a consistent presence in the lineup in his debut season last year, either starting or coming off the bench in every one of Chicago’s games following the league’s restart. However, he didn’t do much during those appearances, only registering one goal and two assists, with two of those goal contributions coming in one contest against last-place FC Cincinnati.
It seemed like it was going to be more of the same this campaign. A hamstring injury ruled him out for five matches early on, and the Argentine wasn’t able to make much of an impact even when he returned. It wasn’t all his fault, as he didn’t have much support, but it was still disappointing to see him struggle.
Luckily for him and the Fire, that may have all changed this weekend. Aliseda was the matchwinner versus Atlanta United, scoring two goals before the half-time break to put his side well ahead. The second was the pick of the pair, as he received the ball on the edge of the area before taking a touch and curling a shot into the corner past a helpless goalkeeper.
It was a stellar performance, but the pressure will now be on him to keep the good times rolling. If the attacker can keep playing the way he did last time out, then Chicago might finally have a threat that they can rely on going forward.
Many big-name signings in MLS history have failed to live up to expectations, but the former Portugal international is not one of them. He’s delivered for the Lions ever since joining in early 2019, scoring 27 goals and dishing out 14 assists in 67 appearances.
He’s been at his best for them this season even though he missed two games through suspension, with six goals and three assists in nine contests. Nani’s consistency is what is most impressive, as his goals have come in six separate games. He’s usually there when the team needs him, and it doesn’t seem like he’s going to be slowing down anytime soon.
The winger’s impact goes beyond the scoresheet as well. As mentioned earlier, he is the club captain, which allows him to be a leader for the team on the field. Due to his storied career, he has a wealth of experience compared to everyone else, so he is able to stay calm and composed in high-pressure situations. He also serves as a figurehead off of the field, as his star power helps Orlando sell tickets and jerseys while also helping them bring in other marquee players.
Nani will be up against an inconsistent Fire backline in this contest, so there’s a chance that he could add to his ever-growing goalscoring tally. If he’s feeling it on the night, then there’s little the opposition will be able to do to stop him, which could lead to another solid win for the Lions.
Last time out
The last match between these two sides wasn’t a close one, as Orlando easily won 4-1.
Taking place at Exploria Stadium, Robert Berić nearly gave Chicago the lead within minutes. However, he could only watch as his deflected shot smashed off the crossbar before the ball was eventually cleared away.
That chance would haunt them moments later, as Orlando opened the scoring through Chris Mueller. Receiving the ball on the right wing, the American cut inside before going for goal. The finish was a lucky one, to be fair, as his shot deflected before rolling past a helpless Bobby Shuttleworth.
A similar story played out midway through the first half. First, Ignacio Aliseda tried to pounce on a rebound on one side of the pitch, but his effort ended up hitting the post. Then, up the other end, the hosts doubled their advantage after Nani headed home a pinpoint cross from Mueller.
Things would somehow get worse for the Fire. Francisco Calvo thought he had pulled one back for his side when he redirected a set-piece into the back of the net, but the goal was called off after a lengthy VAR review. They were then awarded a penalty, but even that couldn’t help the team as Álvaro Medrán had his attempt saved brilliantly by Pedro Gallese.
Chicago eventually got their goal, though, even if it came after yet another penalty. Berić stepped up to the plate on this occasion, and he was able to slot the ball past Gallese, who dove the wrong way. They seemed to have equalized courtesy of Boris Sekulić later on, but that goal was also chalked off thanks to another VAR review.
In the end, all of their fight would be for naught. Orlando restored their two-goal lead in the 78th minute, as Júnior Urso somehow hit a first-time shot off of the post and in after a mess in the penalty area. They then put the contest to bed in stoppage time through Benji Michel, who cut inside before drilling the ball past Shuttleworth to seal the win and all three points for his side.
How to watch
The match will kick off at 7:00 p.m. CST, and it will air on Twitter, TUDN USA, and UniMás.