It's Memorial Day weekend, there's an early tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, the Champions League final is today, and both of Orlando City's teams are in action today. After the Pride play at Chicago Red Stars this afternoon, Orlando City's MLS side will host the Chicago Fire at Orlando City Stadium.
Orlando City will be trying to end a two-game losing streak when the Fire come to town, and they will have to do so with a roster that has a few key pieces missing or questionable for the match. Yoshimar Yotun and Amro Tarek are away for International duty, and several players are still listed as out or questionable with injury.
- OUT: GK - Mason Stajduhar (Localized Ewing Sarcoma), D - Jonathan Spector (concussion), F - Dom Dwyer (lower body injury)
- QUESTIONABLE: D - Scott Sutter (lower body injury)
While the MLS injury report lists Dwyer as unavailable, Orlando Sentinel beat writer Jordan Culver reports that Jason Kreis has said he is hopeful the striker will be available this weekend. So put whatever stock you wish into that. All I can say is that the beat writers tend to have a better eye for who is in and who is out than the league does. Ultimately, of course, it's a decision between the doctors, the player, and the coach if a particular person is in the 18 or the Starting XI.
Chicago (3-6-2 on the season) comes into the match eight points behind Orlando City on the table and below the line. A win would move them potentially into a tie against Philadelphia at 14 points and could put them just below the line. Meanwhile, Orlando City is hoping to improve on their 19 points and perhaps vault the Red Bulls and move as high as fourth place on the table.
If the visitors want to win, they will need to do so with a squad that looks a bit like a M.A.S.H. unit from all the players on the injury report. But Orlando City fans know all too well that the home side has lost the last two matches against Atlanta United and Toronto FC teams that were missing major stars. The team seemed to lack the energy to match the effort of the opponent in both matches, and regardless of who is wearing the shirts for the Fire today, Orlando City will need to outhustle the Fire if they expect to get a result tonight. Here is the league's official injury report on the Chicago Fire.
o OUT: M - Djordje Mihailovic (right ACL surgery), F - Michael de Leeuw (left ACL surgery), D - Matt Polster (MCL sprain), F - Luis Solignac (left quad injury), M - Jon Bakero (right ankle injury), M - Dax McCarty (hamstring strain), F - Elliot Collier (left gastroc injury)
o QUESTIONABLE: None
Players to Watch - Fire and OCSC
Looking through the list of players the MLS expects to be available, here are some potential game changers from both sides, considering players who have put in at least 600 minutes on the pitch this season.
- Justin Meram leads all available players with 2.8 shots per match; he is also completing 80.1% of his passes, winning 1.1 duels per match, and is completing 1.5 key passes per match.
- Lamine Sane leads all available players with an 86.9% pass completion rate; he is winning 1.3 duels per match, making 2.2 tackles per match, and making 3 interceptions and 3.6 clearances per match.
- Sacha Kljestan leads all available players with 2.8 key passes per match; he is also making 1.7 shots per match, is completing 83.1% of his passes, winning 0.7 duels per match, and is making 1.4 tackles per match.
- Bastian Schweinsteiger leads all available players with 3 assists on the season; he is also completing 84.2% of his passes, is winning 2 duels per match, and is making 2.9 tackles and 3.3 clearances per match.
Lineup and Preview
With Dwyer's status up in the air, I am going to fall back on Jason Kreis's Starting XI from the last match, with the exception of Amro Tarek being out and Chris Schuler getting the start again in his place. I believe that Orlando City has the talent and the skill to defeat any team in the league, but they need to play at a higher tempo than they have the last two matches. I hope that we will see this work rate and effort materialize on the pitch tonight. I am very tired of seeing the team allow their opponents to outwork them as they have in the previous two matches. I will go on record as saying that if the Fire is allowed to put in a higher work rate tonight, the visitors will be celebrating a victory and taking home three points from their trip to Orlando.
Despite the woeful performance by the lads in the last two outings, I am optimistic about tonight's match. I think that Orlando City stands a good chance of winning, and I predict a 2 - 1 victory by the lads and another defense of the home pitch. I hope the team prove to be worthy of my faith in their ability to get back on the winning side of the ledger, or I will have to admit to being very disappointed in them.
What are your thoughts on tonight's match? Do you think Orlando City can get the three points and start a new winning streak, or do you think they are suffering deeper problems that will prolong the string of losses? And who do you think Coach Kreis should put in the Starting XI for the match? Let me know in the comments below!