The Chicago Fire’s dream road trip came to a rough end on Saturday night as they lost 3-1 to Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium.
An eventful contest throughout, Orlando opened the scoring a bit before the break through Facundo Torres. The second half then saw three goals in the span of 20 minutes, with the hosts scoring again, Chicago pulling one back, and Orlando restoring their two-goal lead.
That proved to be the end of the scoring as the Lions held on to secure three key points.
Orlando started on the front foot, having a lot of the ball and sending a lot of bodies forward. They just couldn’t carve out a golden chance, though.
It was actually Chicago who had the ball in the back of the opposing net, but it would not stand. Rafael Czichos headed home a free-kick from close range, however he was clearly in an offside position, so the sideline official’s flag went up.
The hosts got their goal in the 38th minute. A lovely cross into the area picked out Facundo Torres, and he made the most of the opportunity, heading home past the goalkeeper.
The Fire thought they had equalized on two separate occasions to open the second half. Kei Kamara was left unmarked from a corner, but his header was saved on the line. The rebound was hit back towards goal, but that was also cleared away at the last moment.
Things kept happening, as Orlando were then awarded a penalty moments later. The referee called it following an apparent handball, and even though the ball did hit the arm of Fabian Herbers, it was pretty harsh. Torres didn’t care, however, and he converted with composure to double his team’s lead.
The two-goal lead didn’t last long. Chicago got a pen of their own when Brian Gutiérrez was pushed down in the box, and Xherdan Shaqiri buried the spot-kick into the bottom corner.
Torres nearly completed his hat-trick up the other end, but he was denied by a brilliant save from Chris Brady.
The Lions made it 3-1 with about 15 minutes to go. Iván Angulo laid the ball off to Ramiro Enrique on the edge of the area, and he did the rest, dancing past a defender before blasting a low strike into the bottom corner.
Things went from bad to worse for the away side as they went down a man before the contest was over. Arnaud Souquet lashed out at a player, and even though it wasn’t much, it was enough to see him shown a second yellow card.
Orlando had a few more chances to add to their tally, but in the end their three goals were enough to clinch all three points.
What it means
The win here shoots Orlando into the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They’re looking like a safe bet to make the postseason, but they’ll have to keep picking up points if they want to stay in a safe spot.
This game was a free hit for Chicago anyway, so they won’t be too upset with a loss. However, this will only put more pressure on them when they return home. Those matches will be must-wins.
Notes and observations
Maybe I was missing something, but it was weird to see Orlando not have a full crowd for the contest.
I would love to see Chicago wear red shorts with their away kit for a game.
Nima Saghafi is not a great referee.
If Orlando can become more clinical on the counter, then they could be a real threat in the Eastern Conference.
Georgios Koutsias needs to get more minutes up top. He’s a better option than Kacper Przybyłko, and he can give Kei Kamara more of a breather.
Chicago struggled in midfield tonight, which makes the upcoming arrival of new DP Ousmane Doumbia even more interesting.
Man of the match – Facundooooo
Big time players make big time plays, and Facundo Torres made the big plays on this night.
He wasn’t a factor during the entire match, but he stepped up on a few occasions, and those moments of brilliance were enough to lead his team to victory.
His header in the first half was well-taken, and then he confidently slotted home from the penalty spot to give Orlando some breathing space.
Torres could’ve had another goal contribution or two if things went different, but that ultimately didn’t matter. He was still the most important man out there.