ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – The Orlando City Lions (7-5-2) returned to Orlando City Stadium to battle the #3 eastern conference team Chicago Fire (7-3-3) on Sunday, June 4, 2017 before an audience of over 24,400. The Lions are only one spot below their opponent and they are #4 in the league (MLS). The Lions entered Sunday’s game without Dax McCarty, who is currently playing for the national team. Head Coach Jason Kreis was confident in the lineup, but admitted Orlando’s first slight disadvantage: today’s match was Orlando’s third in nine days. “Really dangerous opponent and a difficult situation for us having played a midweek game and them not,” Kreis noted. The Lions secured a 2-0 victory against D.C. United Wednesday.
Orlando’s starting lineup tonight: goalkeeper Joe Bendik, defenders Rafael Ramos, Jonathan Spector, Leo Pereira and Victor Pagliari Giro, midfielders Antonio Nocerino, Giles Barnes, Carlos Rivas and Cristian Higuita, and forwards Will Johnson (center field) and Cyle Larin.
Kreis kept Ricardo Kaka, defender Jose Aja, Scott Sutter, Servando Carrasco, Matias Perez Garcia, Luis Gil, and Josh Saunders as substitutions.
Tonight’s match was a highly anticipated one for three reasons. First, Orlando hasn’t lost to Chicago in five MLS games. Second and more poignantly, WIll Johnson and Jonathan Spector had to face off against their former teammates. Third, Orlando, who has Cyle Larin with an impressive 8 season goals under his belt, faced Chicago and MLS-leading scorer Nemanja Nikolic (11 season goals).
FIRST HALF ACTION
The opening half saw a very physical game–fouls abounded on both sides (4 for Orlando, 10 for Chicago) and Chicago proved very fast on the ball, causing several Orlando turnovers. Orlando was only 37% in possessions. Higuita attempted a left-angle goal in the 22nd minute, but Chicago goalie Matt Lampson knocked it out. The game took a controversial turn when Orlando’s Rafael Ramos collided with Chicago’s Brandon Vincent and was issued a red card in the 26th minute. The Lions disagreed, and even Head Coach Jason Kreis was upset by the call. The fans were so angry that they booed vociferously and began to chant “Ref, you suck!” in Ramos’s defense. Chicago was given a penalty kick, but the kick flew high above the crossbar. From that point on, Orlando played with 10 men.
In a close call Cristian Higuita passed to Carlos Rivas, who passed it to the far right to Giles Barnes, but Barnes’s left kick missed the goal. In the 43rd minute, Rivas set up a potential goal for Larin, but Larin didn’t catch the pass.
In the 45th minute, Nikolic was well on his way to a goal after slipping Spector, but Bendik was able to capture the ball, keeping the first half score 0-0. Orlando attempted 5 shots versus Chicago’s 9 attempts.
SECOND HALF ACTION
Antonio Nocerino was issued a red card in the 68th minute, prompting another “Ref, you suck!” chant from the crowd. The Lions were officially the underdog, playing 9 men against Chicago’s 11.
Kaka received a pass and attempted a goal from the goalkeeper’s right, but missed.
For the remainder of the game, it appeared that Orlando’s strategy was to consume time in an effort to slow down Chicago’s game-long aggressive pace. However, despite having some effect, it also made Orlando look fatigued. Dragging aside, Orlando’s defense still held strong, and by the 90th minute, no side had scored. Four minutes of play were added, and despite Will Johnson’s slight injury from Chicago’s Alvarez in the 2nd additional minute, Orlando’s 9-man team managed to successfully end the game in a 0-0 draw.
“It means a lot, especially because for me Chicago is a very, very good team right now,” Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis told FNN News after the game. “And so to be able to get a shutout with eleven players says something, but with nine says a completely [other] thing.”
Red Card – Rafael Ramos – 25′
Red Card – Antonio Nocerino – 67′
Yellow Card – Michael de Leeuw – 58′
Yellow Card – David Arshakyan – 80′
Carlos Rivas out for Ricardo Kaka – 59′
Cyle Larin out for Servando Carrasco – 71′
Luis Solignac out for Arturo Alvarez- 55′
Drew Conner out for Djordje Mihailovic – 71′
David Accam out for David Arshakyan – 75′
The Lions next face Miami FC for the fourth round match of the U.S. Open Cup at Orlando City Stadium at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, and play their next season home game against Montreal FC on Saturday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m.