Our guy, Martin Tomszak is back with another game preview looking at the opposition.
What Are They All About? Orlando City SC
Well then… The roller coaster continues for the Fire after a 3-1 loss to D.C. United on Wednesday night. There’s no rest for the weary as they welcome Orlando City to Toyota Park on Saturday. Chicago will be looking to bounce back from a second half collapse that saw a fifteen minute spell cost them dearly. The Fire will be hoping that after a mid-week loop-de-loop there will be a steady uphill climb that leads to some consistency.
Orlando Form Guide (Last 5 Matches): D-D-W-L-D
Previous match: A 2-2 home draw against Columbus
Formation in the last match: 4-2-3-1, Hall; Boden, St. Ledger, Hines, Ramos; Higuita, Ceren; Rivas, Kaka, Avila; Larin
Strengths: The Chicago Fire front office has seen an upswing in ticket sales for the match on Saturday, and it doesn’t take a genius to know why. Everyone’s favorite Brazilian is in town on Saturday. No, it isn’t Guly do Prado. When the Fire and Orlando City meet for the first time ever, selfie sticks will abound to try to capture a moment with 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year Kaka. He is the clear starting point for today’s “strengths” section.
Kaka is the complete package. On and off the field he has been exactly what Orlando City had hoped for. He has contributed six goals and two assists in thirteen matches so far this season, but his work rate, his ability to draw in multiple defenders, his pass completion percentage, his vision, his set piece delivery and his ability to control the midfield has been indispensible. He is a leader in the locker room, vocal on the field, and is not afraid to shoulder the blame when the team loses. Honestly, Kaka has been a joy to watch and has hopefully lit a fire under the butts of other clubs looking to be successful in the MLS 3.0 era.
Tactically, Orlando has built a squad around Kaka’s abilities. He serves as the creative catalyst for the team and most attacking movements begin with him. The perfect example of his skill was exhibited in a 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy. While it is hard to repeat that complete performance, Kaka played a part in every goal scored against the defending champions. On the first one Kaka sucked in two defenders before playing a neat pass to a wide open Rafael Ramos who crossed it into the space created by Kaka dragging LA out wide, leaving Eric Avila with an easy finish. On the second goal, Kaka peeled back the years with a quick burst down the left flank before leaving Tommy Meyer looking silly by changing gears and forcing a whiffed tackle. Kaka then calmly played the ball to Cyle Larin for a tap in. The third goal resulted from Kaka smartly earning a foul in the box and then putting away the resulting PK. The final goal of the match was a beautiful solo strike from distance by Darwin Ceren, but if you watch closely on the replay Kaka has two LA defenders marking him, leaving Ceren with the time and space to line up the shot.
The Fire will need to clog the midfield and frustrate Kaka early on Saturday. The only time Orlando has lost in the last five matches was arguably the result of DC’s midfield duo of Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud not letting Kaka have time on the ball.
Formation: While Adrian Heath has utilized the 4-2-3-1 since Orlando’s USLPro days, the MLS incarnation of the squad has adapted quite well to the system. The Fire will be facing this formation for the third time in four matches, tying against Columbus and beating Montreal who implemented similar tactics. Orlando, however, puts a bit of an attacking spin on the set up. The “2” anchoring behind Kaka, Cristian Higuita and Ceren, aren’t exactly traditional holding midfielders. Both of them like to get forward and aren’t afraid to have a go from distance. The same goes for the outside backs. Both Ramos and Luke Boden often look like wingers instead of defenders, keeping a high line and looking to pounce on the counter. Heath is also spoiled for choice when looking at speedy midfielders to play alongside Kaka, using Carlos Rivas, Avila, and Brek Shea at various points throughout the season. Cyle Larin rounds out the attack and his rookie season is really starting to turn heads. He has scored four goals in eight matches started and has been directly responsible for a few of the PK calls in favor of Orlando. He’s quick, he’s tall, and his finishing touch is slowly being fine-tuned. Larin has been a handful for defenders and could run riot against the likes of Adailton and Larentowicz. His acquisition through the first pick of the 2015 Super Draft is looking like a shrewd move indeed.
All of this culminates in a fast paced and entertaining style of play that has people already calling Orlando the more successful of the two expansions sides. They sit level on points with Chicago at the moment, having played one more match than the Fire. Toss in the absence Shaun Maloney, and Orlando will surely see this as an opportunity to leap frog a conference opponent. Having already won two and tied two of their six away matches they will head to Toyota Park in an upbeat mood. It seems David Accam will depart for Ghana after this match.
Weaknesses: It’s no secret that if you have attack minded fullbacks they have a hard time defending properly. This is no different for Orlando. If you look at the goals that they have conceded in the last five matches, they have all come from two sources. Either the center backs are caught ball watching on crosses that are freely delivered because the fullbacks are in transition, or the fullbacks make mistakes on their own that result in a goal. Cheap give-aways, dumb fouls, and poor man marking seem to haunt an otherwise solid Orlando team. If Chicago can keep up dangerous set piece delivery and quick counters, the match is there to be won.
The other obvious weakness is that Orlando cannot function without Kaka. The matches that they have lost this season have interestingly come against teams that utilize or utilized two holding midfielders (Vancouver, Columbus, Toronto, and DC). When Kaka’s ability to serve as the engine is taken away, the rest of the team ceases to function. While the idea is simple, the execution will prove to be difficult. Yallop will probably continue the Ravan Cocis/Matt Polster partnership but might be wise to also start Watson on the right as a winger that can tuck in centrally to help with the defensive duties. Chicago has shown flashes of brilliance this season, but has also managed to dumbfound fans with mind boggling lapses of concentration. It seems to be a reoccurring theme, but if the Fire can somehow string together a 90 minute performance, Orlando has shown that they fit the mold of an inconsistent expansion side. Depending on which Orlando team and which Chicago team show up the match is there for the taking.
Prediction: Who knows anymore? At this point we might as well pick results out of a hat. Two things are certain, Chicago will score, and Chicago will concede. Let’s say 3-2 Fire. The Men in Red will leave analysts scratching their heads with goals from Igboananike, do Prado, and Quincy.