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Published on June 2nd, 2017 | by Ryan Voyles

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Sunny With A Chance of Win: Chicago Fire vs Orlando City Preview

Welcome back to the Fire on Ice Soccer blog! We’re back from an extended Memorial Day/Baby Blues/Sibling Wedding/Sinus Infection From Hell break to cover two of your favorite topics: Chicago Fire soccer and hardcore nudity! Today, we’ll just focus on the first part of that equation and discuss the Fire’s return from an equally long break as they host a surging Orlando City side this Sunday at the new Orlando City Stadium.

Sunday’s match will be a showdown between two of the early season powerhouses of the Eastern Conference; and let’s not forget that making a comment like that in the preseason would have led to public shaming and possible commitment to Shutter Island. But here we are about a third of the way through the season, and the Fire sit second in the eastern conference with 24 points; with Orlando just behind them at third with 23 points.

Victory over a (undermanned) FC Dallas side a week ago helped calm some of the doubts about whether the Fire could match up and defeat a top tier MLS team; and Sunday will be another chance for the Fire to notch three more points against a quality team and create some distance between themselves and the rest of their (Non-Toronto FC) eastern conference foes.

And now, what to watch for!

No Dax, No Problem?

Sunday will be the first time Dax McCarty will not make an appearance for the Fire. Instead, the fiery midfielder will be applying his trade with the U.S. Men’s National Team as they prepare for two tough matches against Trinidad & Tobago and at Mexico.

Instead, the Fire will have to rely on Juninho to pair up with Bastian Schweinsteiger to replicate what has become the Fire’s midfield wall. Juninho has mostly been relegated in the last month, appearing only as a sub in two of the past four matches since his last start on May 6. The Orlando City match and June 10 matchup against Atlanta United would be the perfect time for the Brazilian to reestablish himself as a key piece in the suddenly loaded Fire midfield.

Home V Road: Dawn of the Playoff Road

Too much digital ink has already been spilled in the past few years about the Fire’s failures on the road. But the team is riding a hot one-game road winning streak after defeating a terrible DC United side May 20 at our nation’s capital. Sunday will be a wee tougher challenge, as they head into the gorgeous new football fortress down in the Sunshine State.

Orlando City has taken full advantage of moving into their own soccer-specific-stadium, going 6-1-1 in front of the crazy purple-clad fans at Orlando City Stadium. That record is a less impressive 1-1-1 in their last three homes matches, with the one win against the aforementioned horrible DC United side.

It is never easy to win on the road in MLS, especially at a place that gets as loud and raucous as Orlando. But if the Fire do manage to take three points here, it should finally put to rest the tired road narrative that bloggers like myself have ridden into the ground.

Purple Elephant in Room: How Good is Orlando?

Look, this section is not meant to take anything away from Orlando this season. But look past the point total, and you see a team that is tied for seventh-fewest goals in MLS this season (16 in 14 matches) and has a goal differential on the year of -2. Half their goals this season have come from Cyle Larin, and the offense can putter out quickly if he’s off his game.

After a hot start, Orlando City has been reeling since the start of May, losing four and drawing two of their seven matches during the month. They also were outscored 13-5 in those matches, with blowouts at Houston and at home against New York City FC.

They likely won’t be able to rely on Brazilian legend Kaká to help right the ship on Sunday, as he’s missed their last two games due to hamstring concerns/poor turf conditions in Minnesota. Orlando has the pieces to make due without Kaká, but it’s a disappointment that Fire fans won’t get to see the legend take on Schweini and the rest of the crew.

Predictions

Sunday’s match looks to be a tale of two teams moving in separate directions, and the much-needed ten days off should do wonders for the Fire headed into the match. Despite the home crowd, I see the Fire pulling out a 2-1 victory, with Niko and Schweini scoring for the team and putting the dagger in the heart of the ‘Fire cannot win on road’ narrative once and for all.

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