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.