The away side were the ones who took the lead on the night after Andrés Perea slammed a shot into the back of the net, but a header from Boris Sekulić tied things up right before the halftime break. Chicago then took the lead themselves through Robert Berić before Chinonso Offor put the contest to bed with a late goal, securing the win and three big points for a team who might just be starting to figure things out.
Story of the match
The first chance of the contest fell to Chicago. A long ball from Álvaro Medrán picked out the run of Przemysław Frankowski in the area, but he couldn’t keep his header on target, and the ball barely went over the crossbar as a result.
Frankowski would be involved once again moments later, and this time he came even closer to scoring. Settling a pass in the area, he went for a quick shot that took a deflection before flying towards goal. However, he could only watch as the ball bounced off of the crossbar, denying him in cruel fashion.
Orlando then came inches away from scoring themselves. A header from a corner wasn’t dealt with properly by Bobby Shuttleworth, who spilled a pretty juicy rebound. Luckily for him, no one was really able to pounce on it, as the following shot was a tame one that the goalkeeper was able to save.
The game's frantic pace continued, and the away side had another big chance midway through the first half. A lovely give-and-go put Silvester van der Water through in behind the backline, but he bottled the finish, striking the ball right at Shuttleworth for an easy save.
The opening goal would finally come, and it would be scored by Orlando. A cross was woefully defended by the Fire, which allowed Andrés Perea to sneak in and get onto the ball. He then made no mistake with the finish, slamming a powerful shot past a helpless Shuttleworth from close range.
Chicago responded well to going down, though, and they equalized right before break. Another quality cross from Medrán picked out Boris Sekulić at the back post, and he was able to head the ball into the corner from a tight angle to grab his second goal in three games.
The Fire thought they had taken the lead themselves early on in the half when Robert Berić converted from close range, but the sideline official’s flag went up to signal for offside, ruling the goal out in the process. Neither he nor the player who passed him the ball seemed to be offside, though, but VAR chose not to overturn the decision for whatever reason.
Berić found the back of the net once again soon after, and this time, the goal would stand. Played in behind by Medrán, the struggling striker finally broke his scoring duct with a composed finish, placing the ball past an onrushing goalkeeper to put his side in front.
It was Orlando’s turn to respond, and they nearly tied things up in spectacular fashion. A cross made its way to Júnior Urso at the backpost, and he decided to go bold, attempting an audacious bicycle kick. He made solid contact on the effort, but he hit it right at Shuttleworth, who reacted quickly to deny him from a few yards out.
They continued to send bodies forward, and they even created a few decent chances, but Chicago would be the ones who scored the next and final goal. Coming courtesy of a clinical counter attack, Frankowski set up Chinonso Offor on the break, and he slotted home from close range to seal the result and the three points in style.
Getting the job done
Chicago deserves credit for winning the game, of course, but their job was made a lot easier thanks to Orlando’s decision to sit their best players.
The likes of Chris Mueller, Mauricio Pereyra, and Nani were all benched by manager Óscar Pareja, and they only came on after the Fire made it 2-1. Sure, this contest was taking place in the middle of the week, but it was still strange to see such star power left on the sidelines to start.
That call would cost the Lions, as Chicago made the most of the opportunity presented to them. It wasn’t pretty, but they were able to score goals when it mattered most to go ahead, and some big saves from the impressive Bobby Shuttleworth meant that they only conceded once on the night.
The win and the three points digs the Fire a bit more out of the hole they created for themselves earlier in the season, and they now find themselves only five points off of a potential playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Whether or not they can keep this good run of form going remains to be seen, but for now, fans can have some hope for the future.
Man of the match - Robert Berić
He may not have done much, but Robert Berić still managed to be the matchwinner.
Coming into the contest under immense pressure, many had become worried with the Designated Player. He hadn’t scored since the opening game of the campaign, and he looked lost in the final third, constantly straying offside or away from goal. Even when chances fell his way, he would miss them, and his wastefulness was hurting the team.
Berić broke his goalscoring duct on the night, though, as a smart run and finish allowed him to find the back of the net at a crucial time in the matchup. His goal proved to be the winner, and it gave Chicago three big points in their continued quest to turn things around.
Now, the pressure will be on the striker to keep producing. If he can, though, then there’s a chance the Fire could make something out of this season despite their woeful start to it.