I’ve finally recovered from the rambunctious atmosphere that was Saturday night…
What a performance. What a night. You all were absolutely incredible. That match, a regular-season fixture in July amidst a 34-game schedule, felt much bigger and the boys certainly performed like it.
Now the Fire look to make it two in a row against an Orlando City side that was on a hot streak until they ran into an in-form Red Bulls side.
Here’s what to look for headed into a mid-week fixture with the Lions...
MISSING (RETURNING) PIECES
Much like the Atlanta game, the main storyline heading into this one with Orlando is who is not there for the Lions as opposed to who is.
OCSC coach, Oscar Pareja, will definitely be without the services of Daryl Dike (intl duty), Alexandre Pato (injury), Ruan (injury) and Pedro Gallese (intl duty) who just got knocked out of Copa América by Brazil on Monday night. The final absence, and he made it public on social media on Tuesday, is center-back Antonio Carlos who picked up an adductor injury in the opening stages of their 1-2 loss against Red Bulls.
This is a significant list for Orlando City but they still posses enough talent to be dangerous and then some.
Schaumburg, IL native, Chris Mueller, has been in really good form and has scored some wonderful goals as of late. He has two goals in the last two games. Nani is Nani and will always have his chances while Tesho Akindele will slide in for Dike up top. Mauricio Pereyra is quietly one of the better 10’s in the league and has a team-high four assists already. He’s always a handful and will be in front of Junior Urso and most likely Sebastian Mendez who is back from international duty with Ecuador.
For the Fire, they are more than happy to have Frankowski back in the XI who looked really solid, notching the third goal of the night and the Polish international's first of the year. Gastón Giménez is back in Chicago after his stint with Paraguay in Copa América which came to an end against Pedro Gallese’s Peru in penalties. Giménez played in two games, starting one, against Uruguay and Chile.
Francisco Calvo is obviously already with Costa Rica as Los Ticos wanted their players in camp well before anyone else in CONCACAF.
I would imagine Raphael Wicky won’t make too many changes to a lineup that produced the most complete performance of the year and that includes the midfield. With a 10-day break coming up, this is a sprint to take advantage of another 90 minutes at Soldier Field
Sometimes managers will break up such a long schedule like MLS’ into mini-seasons if you will. For the Fire, this four-game homestand can be viewed as such. It helps players break down such a long and exhausting schedule and really focus on the task at-hand and those in the near-future.
Chicago has done fairly well in this mini-season with a win against Atlanta and a point against a very solid Philly side. Now, they’re almost at the finish-line of a four-game stretch and will get a much deserved 10-day break before heading to Nashville on the 17th.
There will definitely be some heavy legs with the quick turn-around, but I don’t expect much rotation from Raphael Wicky. Taking advantage of these home games while they are here is massive. Eleven of the last 15 for the Fire are on the road and we are rapidly approaching the mid-way point of the season. Amidst those final 15 games, there is a 6-game road swing. It’s only going to get tougher and being at home, especially with fans back in the building, is so important in this league. Contrary to UEFA eliminating the away-goal rule and stating “It is fair to say that home advantage is nowadays no longer as significant as it once was..” home-field advantage might be even more significant than it has in the past with the world reopening and football fans desperate to quench their thirst for the game live and in-person.
Wednesday is the mark of an end to a mini-season and they’ll be looking to end it with a bang heading into Music City.
Orlando set up in a 4-2-3-1 but a number of their key starters are out as we discussed. Regardless, Oscar Pareja has proven himself as one of the better managers in the league and OCSC are currently in 2nd place in the East, three points off New England, with a game in hand.
This team is solid defensively, sharp on the counter and can move the ball quite beautifully.
Another master-class performance from the likes of Álvaro Medrán and Ignacio Aliseda will be needed to ignite the crowd at Soldier and tame the Lions of Orlando.
The Fire were successful against Atlanta because they won 1v1’s, moved the ball with pace and were organized. They now have their reference point. The technical staff and players can watch film and point back to these moments and say, “That’s what it’s supposed to look like.” Even more importantly, it’s a reference point for belief. It’s a confirmation that all of the things you work on in training are paying off. This is invaluable and could be a launching platform for the rest of the season.
See you at Soldier Wednesday night for what should be a very entertaining fixture given the way these two teams like to open things up. If you can’t attend the game, make sure you follow the Chicago Fire FC Instagram (chicagofire), as I’ll be doing a takeover for the account.
Let’s make Soldier Field rock for the 2nd time in 96 hours. Kickoff is 7:00 pm CT Wednesday night and you can find the game on TUDN or Twitter.