Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire
Venue: Orlando Citrus Bowl – Friday, March 11 – 19:00 ET (00:00 GMT)
Match Odds: Orlando 21/20 – Draw 5/2 – Chicago 5/2
Both sides were involved in two of the most dramatic games on opening weekend, with Orlando scoring two stoppage time goals to draw 2-2 with Real Salt Lake, while Chicago fell 4-3 to NYCFC in a seven-goal thriller.
The Lions will expect to build upon their very late showing against RSL by beating Eastern rivals Chicago on Friday night, but will have to do so without Kaka as he remains out with a thigh problem.
Adrian Heath’s side are a dangerous attacking unit, proven by the fact they have scored ten goals in their last five home games in MLS. They should cause the Chicago defence plenty of problems based on the Fire’s showing against New York City last week.
Veljko Paunovic will be disappointed with the way life started as Chicago head coach in Sunday’s home opener, but he did oversee an encouraging preseason run and will be looking for an important win in Florida this week.
The Fire may have looked vulnerable at the back, but they attacked well and have major attacking threats in David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two clubs in less than a year after they faced off four times over the course of Orlando’s inaugural season.
The Lions did not lose to the Fire in any of the three regular season meetings (W2 D1) but did fall 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup. The two sides met once at the Citrus Bowl, playing out a 1-1 draw in late August and both sides will expect to find the net once again here.
Orlando will be without Darwin Ceren following his red card picked up in last week’s draw with Real Salt Lake. Adrian Heath will also be without star man Kaka for the second-straight week, as the Brazilian playmaker is struggling with a thigh strain. Conor Donovan and David Mateos also remain sidelined through injury, while Bryan Rochez is a doubt. The positive for Orlando is that new signing Antonio Nocerino should make his debut for the club following his move from AC Milan this winter.
Chicago will be sweating over the fitness of striker Gilberto as he is struggling with a calf strain picked up in the defeat to New York City last weekend. Eric Gehrig remains out with a foot injury but other than that Veljko Paunovic has a full squad to choose from.
Orlando City’s form: D
Chicago Fire’s form: L
Key Stat: Chicago have not won a regular season game on the road in their last 25 attempts (D7 L18) – a stretch that has now lasted 20 months.
Key Player: Cyle Larin – The Orlando striker scored one and assisted one of Orlando’s two stoppage time goals last weekend and looked a threat throughout. He will expect to find the net against a Fire defence that looked unorganised as they shipped four against NYCFC last week.
Orlando City 3-1 Chicago Fire – Orlando should be able to get off the mark for the 2016 season with a home win at the second attempt here. They rallied late to earn an extraordinary point last week and should build on that with a better showing over 90 minutes on Friday. The Fire looked extremely poor in defence last weekend and may struggle to contain Cyle Larin. Antonio Nocerino is expected to make his debut and will also expect to hurt the Fire’s backline. Both sides should find the net but the Lions look set to edge an entertaining encounter. Chicago’s hideous away record will do little to increase their supporters’ confidence.