Orlando’s start to the season has been a wild one. After six games they’ve got two wins, two draws, and two losses, which goes to show just how unpredictable this team can be at times. When they’re at their best, they can pick up a result against anyone. However, when they’re not, they can also lose to anyone. Heaven only knows which Lions outfit shows up this weekend.
Chicago, meanwhile, have been a lot more solid. They still have yet to be beaten in the campaign, securing nine points from five matches. Their defense has led the way, only conceding once all year. Things do need to improve going forward, but if the backline is as good in this match as it has been this season, then the Fire knows they can at least get a point from proceedings, if not all three.
There shouldn’t be too many absences for this game, which is nice.
Orlando has everyone available for selection since no one is hurt or suspended.
Chicago, on the other hand, does have a few injuries to manage. Carlos Terán is definitely out with a right thigh problem, while Victor Bezerra and Rafael Czichos are currently listed as questionable.
Orlando City: Gallese, Ruan, Carlos, Jansson, Moutinho, Urso, Araújo, Pato, Pereira, Torres, Kara
Chicago Fire: Slonina, Sekulić, Omsberg, Czichos, M. Navarro, Pineda, Giménez, Ivanov, Shaqiri, Herbers, Przybyłko
Ones to watch
Ercan Kara’s start to life in MLS has been interesting.
The striker was signed as a Designated Player in the offseason, but he’s not quite delivered so far. He has yet to find the back of the net this campaign, although he does have two assists, with one coming this past weekend.
He’s not really played much either, only starting three contests while having to settle for brief cameos off the bench in the rest of his teams games. It’s taken some time for him to get going, but Orlando will hope that he can finally kick into top gear as we head into the spring.
Kara will certainly have a tough test ahead of him this time around. Up against a Chicago team that has conceded just once this campaign, he’s going to have to be very clever with his movement in the area. He does have some help, as Alexandre Pato scored in the Lions’ last game, a goal which was set up by Kara.
Those two might be beginning to form a solid relationship, and they’ve got other quality players surrounding them, like Mauricio Pereyra and Facundo Torres. That’s more than a decent foursome going forward, and if they start playing well together then the sky is the limit for Orlando.
That might just happen this weekend.
As we’ll get to later, there was little to separate the two sides last time out. This game will probably be more of the same, and that’s how most Fire games have gone this season.
That’s why the pressure will be on Shaqiri to be the difference. The Designated Player hasn’t had a bad start to the season, and he’s at least got a goal and an assist to his name already. However, he has been a bit underwhelming, especially in the final third.
The Swiss captain was brought in to be a matchwinner, and it’s time he becomes that for Chicago. He’s certainly got the talent to do so, as he’s one of the best players on the ball in the entirety of MLS. It’s just a matter of whether or not he can put things together when it matters most.
A spectacular goal from distance or an insane pass in behind might be all his team needs to pick up the win this weekend. Can Shaqiri do it? Probably.
Last time out
The two teams have already faced off once this season, but that game was far from a classic.
The biggest moment of the contest came with a bit more than 15 minutes to go. Orlando thought that they had opened the scoring when Júnior Urso’s deflected shot rolled past a helpless Gabriel Slonina, but VAR decided to step in. After a lengthy review, the goal was taken off the board due to a handball by Ercan Kara in the buildup.
Chicago did have two late chances to snatch a winner, and both came via crosses from Xherdan Shaqiri. The first one picked out Kacper Przybyłko, but the forward made a mess of his header. It was more of the same next time out, with the only difference being that Brian Gutiérrez was the one who failed to convert from close range.
All in all, it was a rough watch, and the scoreless final result was arguably the right one.
How to watch
The match kicks off at 1:00 p.m. EDT, and it will air live on Fox 35 Plus Orlando - WRBW and orlandocitysc.com for fans in Orlando and on WGN TV and chicagofirefc.com for fans in Chicago. Anyone else in the United States will be able to watch the action unfold on ESPN+.