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Tactical Thoughts: Chicago Fire at Orlando City

We review the Week 1 tactical alignments for the Fire and Orlando City and then make the case for how our Fire will start on Friday.

The Chicago Fire and Orlando City square off Friday in Florida. What should we expect tactically?
The Chicago Fire and Orlando City square off Friday in Florida. What should we expect tactically?
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Last Game - Fire vs NYCFC

Last week, the Fire demonstrated the capability, albeit early in the season, to change tactical formations in the manner which coach Veljko Paunovic expects. In the first half, the Fire came out in a 4-2-3-1 (see Field 1).

The game plan, on offense at least, was working very well. The Fire attacking four got behind the NYCFC back four to generate four or five really good looks on the counterattack. On defense, not so much, as New York came out in a 4-3-3 and pressured the Fire into several turnovers in the middle of the pitch. Also, both outside backs were stranded 1v1 against faster players and both were burned several times (including on the second New York goall). Overall, during the first half while the Fire played 4-2-3-1 they were unable to possess the ball, unable to generate rhythm on the attack and unable to deny New York time or space - no doubt in large part because NYCFC had planned to attack and defend against the 4-2-3-1.

In the second half, the Fire changed formations, made one substitution and came out in a 3-4-1-2 formation (see Field 2).

Immediately, the Fire was able to step up and put pressure on NYCFC as they tried to build out of the back - which paid dividends as David Accam stole the ball and passed to Kennedy Igboananike for a tap-in. For the rest of the half, the Fire looked more settled on the ball, were better in possession and much more organized on defense. With a little luck and confidence, a 4-4 tie would have been a reasonable finish.

Last Game - Orlando City vs Real Salt Lake

On Sunday, the Lions hosted RSL in a contentious game in which they waited until the last two minutes of overtime to score twice and earn the tie.

They started in 4-1-2-3 with the two advanced midfielders consisting of Pedro Ribero and Darwin Ceren - on defense those two were positioned to deny RSL space to play through the midfield - while on attack they pushed the ball inside to Larin or outside to Kevin Molino or Brek Shea in order to get it to the endline to cross. On the transition from offense to defense, they apply immediate pressure to win the ball back. On defense, they are compact and well disciplined - but both center backs can be beaten for pace.

Friday at Orlando

Since this is the first road game of the season, and it will be very challenging to play on the turf in the heat in front of 60,000 screaming OCSC fans, the Fire will start in 3-4-1-2 (see Field 3).

The Fire can sit back, keep OCSC in front of them, establish a rhythm and possession while denying the Lions the outside channels. John Goossens and Jonathan Campbell get their first start, Gilberto and Accam start up top as the two strikers, and the Fire score early and late to beat the Lions 3-1.

Three questions:

  • Should the Fire start in 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-1-2?
  • Will Paunovic pick Alvarez over Igboananike if they start 4-2-3-1?
  • Do you expect Orlando City to step up and try to press our Fire or do they sit back to keep the Fire in front of them and absorb pressure?