With two unexpected results under their belt, the Chicago Fire are looking to keep things going as they welcome Orlando City for the final match of their four-game home stand. But this might be the biggest test yet. Their previous two opponents were ripped apart with absences, while Orlando is coming in with the highest over-performing offense and one of the top over-performing defenses. But even they are susceptible to injuries and absences. Let’s see who is available.
In an unexpected twist, the players called up for the CONCACAF Gold Cup are already departing from their clubs. This means that for the Chicago Fire, Francisco Calvo will be away during the tournament. Orlando City will be missing Daryl Dike due to the Gold Cup and are still without Pedro Gallese who has led Peru to the semifinals of the Copa America. They recently beat Paraguay, which should be sending Gaston Gimenez back to Chicago. In terms of actual injuries, Carlos Teran is reportedly still injured for the Fire and Orlando is still handling injuries to Joao Moutinho and recent signing Alexandre Pato.
Here are three things to watch for in this game:
In or Out?
An obvious question when dealing with a mid-week game and short rest is: who stays and who goes? The question is asked in very different ways for either team. The Chicago Fire, coming off of a resounding win, will want to keep their squad the same; but Orlando City just fell off of a three game winning streak with a loss at home to the New York Red Bulls.
At this point, I don’t think either will change their look too much going into this one. The Chicago Fire have honestly looked a lot better without Gaston Gimenez on the pitch, so it’s hard to argue his re-entry into the starting eleven. With Ignacio Aliseda’s big day alongside Fabian Herbers and Alvaro Medran, they need to stick together. And for Orlando, they already had a good team. They just ran into a goalkeeper that had a good night.
My favorite random metric to look at when it comes to a team having an advantage or not is Action Zones. Basically, how much time does the ball spend in each of the three zones on the pitch? One of the big problems that I’ve been mentioning for the Chicago Fire is that when the ball makes it into their own end, things almost immediately fall apart. This is why I’ve insisted the the Fire just push the ball into the other end and hope to earn it there. Simply put, it’s just a high press. You can visualize the data through Action Zones, Heat Maps, and by tracking Defensive Actions.
Surprisingly, the Fire had actually been doing a solid job at pressing their opponents and keeping them in the attacking end. The only team the Fire struggled to do that with was the Philadelphia Union, but I cannot stress enough how little that game counts towards any sort of analysis. But it’s the defensive actions in the final third that give away that the Fire were pushing a lot more against Atlanta than any other team.
Winning the ball in the final third gives you a that much higher chance at a counter-attack that leads to a goal. Aliseda took advantage of that in the last game and I hope that others in the attack do the same against Orlando.
Something Here That Wasn’t There Before
I can talk about tangibles all day, but the biggest thing for the Chicago Fire right now is that they are finally feeling good. What we saw last season was that the Fire under coach Raphael Wicky are a very streak-y team. When they get hot, they get very hot and when they got cold, they are frozen. The important thing is momentum and while last season had a couple of big wins, none of them felt like those three goals against Atlanta.
This is the first chance for a lot of players on this team to finally feel comfortable in Chicago. This past weekend, it was Aliseda showing that he finally felt at home and this might be an opportunity for more players to finally open up and start performing to the level that they are expected to be playing at. Orlando will be a major test, but there’s hope now. Something clicked.
Now, we wait to see if this change is for real or if that was just one good day.
Chicago Fire (5-3-2-1): Bobby Shuttleworth; Miguel Navarro, Johan Kappelhof, Mauricio Pineda, Wyatt Omsberg, Boris Sekulic; Alvaro Medran, Fabian Herbers; Ignacio Aliseda, Przemyslaw Frankowski; Robert Beric
Orlando City (4-2-3-1): Brandon Austin; Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith; Junior Urso, Andres Perea; Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Chris Mueller; Tesho Akindele
How To Watch
Wednesday, July 7th, 7:00PM CDT; At Soldier Field in Chicago, IL, on WGN and online on the Chicago Fire website