Both made good starts to their respective campaigns last weekend.
Chicago secured a point on the road against Inter Miami, even if it came in unspectacular fashion. There were chances early on, but the contest really died down in the second half, so the two sides ultimately had to settle for a 0-0 draw.
Orlando, meanwhile, picked up all three points after beating CF Montréal. They had the benefit of playing at home, but they certainly made the most of it. Two goals shortly after the break were the difference on the afternoon, as Alexandre Pato and Benji Michel both found the back of the net with close-range finishes. Each team ended the match with ten men thanks to two red cards, but that didn’t stop the hosts from holding on to the win and the clean sheet.
Chicago and Orlando have begun the year on the right foot, but both know that a victory this weekend could be huge, even if it’s still very early in the season.
Neither team will have too many absences, which is nice.
Chicago’s only certain absentee will be Carlos Terán, who is still dealing with a right thigh injury, while Rafael Czichos and Victor Bezerra are doubts for the contest.
Orlando have a clean bill of health, but they will be without the suspended Robin Jansson, who is the one that picked up the aforementioned red card versus Montréal.
Chicago Fire: Slonina, Sekulić, Pineda, Czichos, M. Navarro, F. Navarro, Giménez, Ivanov, Shaqiri, Durán, Przybyłko
Orlando City: Gallese, Ruan, Carlos, Schlegel, Moutinho, Araújo, Perea, Torres, Pereira, Michel, Pato
Ones to watch
Xherdan Shaqiri’s debut last weekend was an interesting one.
To his credit, he put in a solid shift. The Switzerland international was certainly involved throughout, constantly getting on the ball in an attempt to create something for Chicago.
However, he just wasn’t able to create much. Whether it was Shaqiri losing the ball, his teammates letting him down, or an opponent fouling him, he simply couldn’t do as much as he wanted to. Sure, some of his advanced metrics looked really impressive on paper, but he didn’t make an impact in the final third, which is what he was brought in to do.
Is there reason for Chicago fans to panic? Of course not. His first game was always going to be tough. Getting used to a new country and a new league is never easy, and Shaqiri obviously isn’t joining the most stacked team on the planet. There will be growing pains, but the most important thing is that he looks like he cares, which can’t be said for a few Fire Designated Players of the past, and even the present. (To be fair, Gastón Giménez wasn’t horrific versus Miami, which is a step in the right direction.)
Shaqiri’s got a pass for now, but he and everyone else knows that it won’t last long. He’s the star of the show here, so he’s got to be the one producing at a high level.
A masterclass versus Orlando could be just what the doctor ordered, especially since it’d come in front of the same fans who were so hyped up about his signing.
Is it finally remontada time for Alexandre Pato?
He’s had one of the most disappointing careers in soccer history. Bursting onto the world’s stage at the age of 22 following a wondergoal versus FC Barcelona, it seemed like he was going to become an elite-level forward.
That never happened. His tenure at AC Milan went downhill after a number of injuries halted his development, and then a series of bad transfers led to him being forgotten about by many. There was hope that a move to Orlando City last winter would revitalize him, but he missed most of the following season due to injury.
Despite things going so poorly, the club decided to give Pato another chance, re-signing him to a one-year deal. Fortunately for them, that call might just pay off.
He made an ideal start to this campaign, scoring in the aforementioned opener versus Montréal. It wasn’t the greatest goal, of course, as he only had to convert from a few yards out after his teammate had done most of the work. However, a goal is a goal is a goal, and it still should provide him with some much-needed confidence going forward.
If the Brazilian can get back to his best, then he’ll be a legitimate attacking threat in this league. Whether last week’s strike was a fluke or not remains to be seen, but another goal this weekend could be massive for him and his team.
Last time out
These two sides last faced off in the summer of 2021 in a game that I completely forgot about.
Far from the most remarkable contest, the only goal of the afternoon came early on in the second half courtesy of a mistake at the back. Defender Mauricio Pineda was dispossessed by Tesho Akindele, who tackled the ball to Benji Michel. He then did the rest, driving forward before burying a low shot into the bottom corner to put Orlando in front.
Chicago tried to equalize late on, and they came close on a number of occasions, but they were never able to breach the opposing defense by the time that all was said and done. As a result, Orlando held on to the win and all three points.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 5:00 p.m. CST, and it will air live on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago and on Fox 35 Plus Orlando - WRBW and orlandocitysc.com for fans in Orlando. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.