Orlando City SC

Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

Are the Chicago Fire still getting better?

The Fire entered Saturday’s match against Orlando unbeaten in eight straight MLS games, yet showed a level of domination the team hasn’t had for extended periods this year. David Accam scored two goals in the first eight minutes and finished with a hat trick to lead the Fire to a 4-0 win against the visiting Lions on Saturday.

Accam’s first goal was a beauty in the third minute. It came at the end of a 17-pass buildup, which started with a Matt Polster throw in. In the end it was Polster hitting a low cross to Accam, who scored with a pretty backheel from five yards out.

“I think the main thing from the group is that we’re just all moving off the ball," Polster said. "Our movement has been very good in terms of we’re always finding the open man. We’ve been creating a lot of space for each other... I think that’s kind of what we’re trying to build, a lot of running off the ball and creating a lot of space for each other.”

Five minutes later Accam had another goal after Bastian Schweinsteiger’s long ball put Accam all alone with goalkeeper Joe Bendik in the box. Accam dribbled around Bendik and scored.

That incredibly fast start seemed to set the tone for the show. The Fire were not only dominating the game, but they were seemingly having fun while doing so. There were plenty of flicks and tricks and creative set plays on display.

Nemanja Nikolic added one in the second half, on an Accam assist. Accam finished off his hat trick, which he said he believed was the first of his professional career, in the 63rd minute on a penalty kick.

Nikolic now has 14 goals to add to his league-leading total. Even though he is in the running for the Golden Boot, there was no question who was taking the penalty kick.

“I just took the ball and he gave it to me," Accam said. "We share responsibilities with the penalties every time. I know he wants to score every game. For me I try to help him to score goals and I’m glad I did today.”

The Fire (10-3-4, 34 points) remained within a point of Toronto (10-2-5, 35 points) for the best record in the league and reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2013. The regular season is halfway finished.

“We have to understand that this is going to be a long season and we still have to look for the peak of our performance by the end of the season,” coach Veljko Paunovic said.

Orlando (7-6-5, 26 points) was without its leading scorer (Cyle Larin), was coming off a midweek game at Seattle and has one win in its past 11 MLS matches. Even with that, the Lions are in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the Fire thoroughly dominated.

Orlando didn’t have a shot on target and the Fire had plenty of chances to score more than four. There’s another half to the season remaining, but this Fire team is coming off arguably its best result of the season (last week’s win at New England) and seems to be still improving.

At the beginning of the season, simply ending the team's five-year playoff drought would have been viewed as a minor success. Now, midfielder Dax McCarty, who is set to leave with the U.S. national team following this game for the Gold Cup, says the Fire are hoping for bigger things.

“The mentality is certainly now, let’s not just make the playoffs because that’s not good enough," McCarty said. "Sure, we want to make the playoffs, but we want to win the Open Cup, we want to win MLS Cup, we want to compete for the Supporters’ Shield. Is that realistic to compete for all three, why not? Why not us? I think that’s our motto and our attitude in the locker room right now. Why can’t we win every game. Clearly MLS is a long, hard grind and you’re going to have off days, but we step on the field every day now to compete and win games.”

Preview: Fire get another shot against Orlando Saturday on CSN after recent draw

Preview: Fire get another shot against Orlando Saturday on CSN after recent draw

 

In one sense it shows how far the Chicago Fire have come that the players and coaches are looking at a draw on the road against a team in a playoff spot as a disappointment.

That’s how the Fire are looking at the 0-0 draw at Orlando on June 4. Granted, the context of the Lions being down a man for over an hour and finishing with only nine players explains the disappointment.

Still, the Fire are hoping to correct that result when Orlando comes to Toyota Park on Saturday. Coverage begins on CSN at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

“It was just a good opportunity for us to get three points in that game,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We feel like they actually took something from us so I think the guys are aware of that, that we have another opportunity to win (against) our opponent from the conference and a very good team. We have to be at our best. This game is very important.”

The Fire (9-3-4, 31 points) enter with an eight-game unbeaten run in MLS play. Orlando (7-5-5, 26 points) has one win in its past 10 games and has drawn three straight.

The Lions head to Toyota Park without Cyle Larin. The third-year pro has 39 goals in his career and had eight in 15 games before getting suspended following a DUI arrest. The absence of its leading scorer is obviously a big loss for Orlando.

“Obviously they’re going through a little bit of a difficult stretch right now in terms of just off the field stuff and in terms of how the results on the field aren’t great,” midfielder Dax McCarty said. “We know they’re a good team though. They’re a dangerous team. They won plenty of games already this year and they have a lot of dangerous players.”

Goalkeeper Jorge Bava is out with what is being called left elbow tendinitis, but David Accam figures to be returning. Accam sat out both the U.S. Open Cup game at Saint Louis FC and the game last Saturday at New England. Both of those games were on turf, but Paunovic said his absence was not related to the turf.

“He didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game and we always want to be smart with how we manage the minutes and the load for the guys,” Paunovic said of Accam.

Accam was in training this week.

Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City

TV: CSN Chicago (Spanish language broadcast with Hector Lozano and Raquel Ortiz on CSN+)

When: Coverage starts at 7 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.

Records: Fire (9-3-4, 31 points), Orlando (7-5-5, 26 points)

Despite playing up two men, Fire fail to score in Orlando

Despite playing up two men, Fire fail to score in Orlando

The Chicago Fire had the advantage of Orlando receiving not just one, but two red cards on Sunday, but still couldn’t turn that advantage into a goal.

The Fire played up a man for more than 60 minutes and up two men for the final quarter of the match, but couldn’t break through Orlando’s defense in a scoreless draw at Orlando City Stadium.

The draw snapped the Fire’s four-game winning streak, but did extend the team’s unbeaten run to six matches.

Orlando right back Rafael Ramos was handed a red card in the 26th minute for a foul on Brandon Vincent at the edge of the penalty box. Even after replays it wasn’t clear why the red card was given.

The Fire (7-3-4, 25 points) already had the edge in possession before the red card and continued to control the ball after it, but couldn’t score in the first half despite putting five shots on target.

Things got worse for Orlando (7-5-3, 24 points) when Antonio Nocerino was given the Lions’ second red card in the 66th minute. Nocerino led with his cleats into the back of Matt Polster.

Orlando went into an all-out defensive shell for the final quarter of the match. The Fire had all the ball possession, but had to try to break down a tight unit of eight players defending in the final third.

The game’s stats were understandably one-sided. The Fire outshot Orlando 21-5 and put six of those shots on target. In addition, the Fire had nine corners, attempted 27 crosses and finished with 66 percent of the possession.

After Orlando went down to nine men, the Fire were unable to put another shot on target. Matt Polster came the closest in the 92nd minute with a hard-hit first-touch shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar, bounced down and then was cleared. A couple minutes later, David Arshakyan had a shot deflect off a defender and then the crossbar before being cleared from danger.

A win against Orlando, especially on the road, could have proved valuable come the end of the season with both teams looking like playoff contenders. Given the two red cards, it will look like a missed opportunity for the Fire, but a draw on the road against a playoff contender isn’t such a bad thing without context.

The Fire were without both Dax McCarty and Juninho. Polster moved to midfield for the first time this season. With Polster in midfield, Drew Conner got his third start at right back.

Juninho did not travel after his wife gave birth to a boy earlier in the weekend.

The Fire return to Toyota Park next Saturday against Atlanta United FC.