More than three weeks removed from their most recent MLS regular season contest, the Chicago Fire (6-15-6, 24 pts.) begin the stretch run of their 2018 campaign Sunday against Orlando City SC (7-17-3, 24 pts.), with both clubs aiming to jumpstart a move up the Eastern Conference table in the season’s final two months. The match kicks off at 4 PM (TICKETS) and will be carried live to a national audience on FS1.
Raring to Go
Most notably, Sunday's home match marks the Fire's first MLS regular season match in 24 days, a spell that spanned the club's overseas foray to Munich, Germany, as well as the just-completed FIFA international window. Of course, the Men In Red put in plenty of work in Munich and were tested by some of the world's best during Bastian Schweinsteiger's testimonial match at FC Bayern Munich on Aug. 28, but it's back to the task at hand of picking up a valuable three points on the weekend. After a chance to rest mind and body, the eagerness to get back to match action and turn the recent string of results was a common theme over the last 10 days of training.
"We're extremely motivated and eager to get back to a game," said Homegrown midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, who has started both of his appearances since his return from injury, following training on Wednesday. "I know we have a lot of space to make up in the playoff run but we're all really motivated and believe that we can do it."
OCSC in Brief
Orlando City arrives in Bridgeview seeking its first MLS victory since July 14, having gone winless (0-6-2) in eight league matches since. The club is now under the direction of 38-year-old head coach James O’Connor, a one-time player for the USL-edition of Orlando City SC who assumed the managerial post on June 29 following the midseason departure of Jason Kreis. O’Connor’s attack is spearheaded by MLS veteran forward Dom Dwyer (12 goals) and Peruvian midfielder Yoshi Yotún (10 assists), as well as playmaker Sacha Kljestan (5 goals, 6 assists).
The trip to Bridgeview marks Orlando's second straight road match after a 1-0 defeat on Dom Dwyer's return to Kansas City last Saturday. The Lions are 2-11-0 away from Orlando City Stadium in 2018, with their 11 road losses representing the second-highest figure in MLS behind only Minnesota United FC.
The Fire’s 2-1 win in Orlando back on May 26 marked their second straight win over the fourth-year MLS club and extended their unbeaten streak in the series to five matches. That road victory featured a pair of memorable strikes by the Men In Red: a first-half free kick goal by Aleksandar Katai, followed by Alan Gordon’s long-range blast in the 82nd minute that secured all three points for Chicago.
Orlando has recorded two all-time victories at Toyota Park, both in their inaugural MLS campaign of 2015.
More on the Matchup
In addition to the managerial change for Orlando City, much has changed from a personnel standpoint for both clubs since that May meeting in Florida. The Lions in that match were without the services of Dwyer as well as regular contributor (and one-time Fire midfielder) Will Johnson, while Justin Meram put in a 90-minute shift on the wing during a short Orlando tenure that ended two months later. For the Fire, Orlando-area native Dax McCarty was absent due to injury, goalkeeper Patrick McLain turned in a Man-of-the-Match performance in his last full 90 before injury, and both Nicolas Hasler and Raheem Edwards had yet to make their moves to Chicago. Added together, both teams are approaching the match against a conference foe as if it's their first of the 2018 campaign.
"The game was several months ago, both teams are very different through the transfer windows, injuries, all of that," said Fire goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland. "We have to prepare like it's an entirely new game. We're tied in the table so this is a good opportunity for one team to get an upperhand on the other."