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#ORLvCHI Numbers and Words: Eastern Conference heavyweights clash Sunday night


Matchup Chicago Fire (7-3-3, 24 pts.) at Orlando City SC (7-5-2, 23 pts.)
Date Sunday, June 4 • 6:30 p.m. CT
Location Orlando, Fla. • Orlando City Stadium
Spanish Radio Univision América 1200 (WRTO)
MLS Match Preview Projected lineups, injuries, and more

After a nine-day break, Chicago Fire resume MLS play with a trip to Florida to take on Orlando City SC on Sunday evening (6:30 pm CT, FS1) with only one point separating the two clubs in the Eastern Conference table. After a May that ended as one of the most successful single-months in club history, head coach Veljko Paunovic and his side will look to kickstart June by adding to their current run of four wins straight. They'll make their first-ever visit to Orlando City Stadium to face a side short on rest coming off a midweek 2-0 victory over D.C. United. Ahead of Sunday's Sunshine State contest, here are a few key facts, faces and figures to keep in mind:

Key number: 6

No need to dive too deep into the stats here. Head coach Jason Kreis' side has been among the league's best at defending their home turf in 2017, and they've risen to third place in the Eastern Conference as a result. Their six victories at home are the second-highest total in MLS (level with Chicago) behind only Houston's seven. For what it's worth, it hasn't been entirely comfortable within the confines of Orlando City Stadium. The Lions' home goal differential of +5 in 2017 is among the Eastern Conference's bottom third, and aided by a 2-0 defeat of D.C. United on Wednesday.

Matchup to watch: Kappelhof/Meira vs. Cyle Larin

For the second week in a row, the Chicago defensive tandem will play a key role in this match's outcome. Orlando forward Cyle Larin has done everything for his team this season, having scored eight of his team's 16 goals in 2017 including the game-winner on Wednesday night. The Fire defensive unit allowed just four goals in the entire month of May, and will need to continue that level of play as the calendar flips into June if they're going to pull out a second consecutive win on the road. For the record, Larin has three goals in five career regular season appearances against the Men In Red. 

One Big Question: How will the gameplan shift with Dax McCarty on National Team duty?

Midfielder Dax McCarty has been the fulcrum for this team from his deep-lying role in the midfield, balancing some killer defensive instincts with a knack for getting the ball into transition offensively. As a result, he's been called into the U.S. Men's National Team ahead of their pair of World Cup Qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico. With Dax unavailable and out of the lineup for the first time since joining the team over the offseason, how Paunovic opts to replace his partnership with Bastian Schweinsteiger and on-field presence will be an area of intrigue when the starting XI drops prior to kickoff.

If there's room for a second big question, it may be regarding the inclusion of Kaká in the home team's side. The Brazilian superstar was absent Wednesday night vs. D.C. with a right calf injury and has experienced varying degrees of success in his third MLS season. His presence (or lack thereof) is sure to change the complexion of Orlando City's squad, and could be the difference in how much room players like Schweinsteiger and Michael de Leeuw have to operate in the attacking third. 

Quote of the Week:

"When you're in this kind of momentum, in this kind of flow, you want to play every day a game."

That's Fire forward Michael de Leeuw on his team's run of form in recent weeks, which ultimately turned May into the second-most successful single-month in club history. With 10 days and a bit of downtime between last Thursday's 2-1 home win against Dallas and Sunday's contest in Orlando, the Fire will be well-rested refreshed as they resume their MLS campaign.

Fire Field Vision powered by NovaCare:

From the media guide:

  • The Fire hold a 0-2-3 all-time record against Orlando City, including a 0-0-2 record in matches on the road.
  • Midfielder Dax McCarty will miss the match while on international duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
  • On Dec. 10, 2014 Orlando City SC selected Fire assistant coach Eric Gehrig in the 10th round of the MLS Expansion Draft. Later that day, Gehrig was traded to his hometown team in exchange for the Fire’s second round selection in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft.