There was once a boy who just wanted to prove himself worthy of being an heir to the well-known local billionaire. The boy tried his best to impress the man, changing his appearance and personality in an effort to court over the man and convince him that he was worth it. The effort, naturally, failed.
Luckily, the boy's father was there to give him the sagest of advice to help him move on from the heartbreak.
"You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try."
I could not help but think of that wise father's words as I watched the new and improved Chicago Fire lose their home and season-opener 4-3 to New York City FC. The team looked a little too much like those Fire teams of the past few years that have caused much pain, misery and apathy. The cast was mostly new, but the defensive breakdowns and missed opportunities on the offensive side were all too familiar to the team I know and love.
Luckily, the team will not have long to linger on the loss as it heads to the Sunshine State tonight to face off against Orlando City FC. The match begins at 6 p.m. CST on UniMas.
Will John Goossens be ready and what can he bring?
The MVP of the preseason, Goossens was sorely missed on Sunday as he sat out due to visa issues. But the problems are now in the past as the Dutchman has returned to practice this week. It will be a game-time decision on whether Goossens starts or will be off the bench, but the Fire are a much improved team if he shows even a trace of his preseason form. While the pain of the Harry Shipp trade still lingered in the hearts of many Fire faithful, Goossens showed fans flashes of a dynamic midfielder who seemed to create chances on a whim throughout the preseason. It'll be exciting to see whether that creativity can be replicated in the regular season.
Can Matt Lampson Bounce Back?
Lampson's Fire debut in goal was one he and most Fire fans would probably like to forget going forward. While he made several key saves on David Villa, the new goalkeeper seemed to lack communication with his back line and looked a bit shaky on some catches. Lampson's biggest public supporter coming out of Sunday's loss though has been coach Veljko Paunovic, who said the team did not do enough to help their goalkeeper. The writing on the wall seems to suggest Lampson staying in the starting XI for now, but it is hard to know how long a leash he will have with Sean Johnson ready and available off the bench.
Will Brandon Vincent adjust to more adversity?
Look, it's not a total surprise that Brandon Vincent struggled on Sunday. The promising 21-year-old rookie was starting his first MLS match of his career and he was matched up against NYCFC speedster Khiry Shelton. That speed cost Vincent at various points, including on New York's third goal that resulted from Shelton's speed and a mix-up between Vincent and Lampson. Vincent won't be able to relax tonight either as he'll be matched up against Orlando City's Kevin Molino, the skillful Trinidadian who looks to be close to full health after an ACL tear last spring.
Who Takes Over Up Top?
Last word was that Gilberto was doubtful for tonight's match due to the calf strain suffered during Sunday's match, which could force Paunovic to make some formation changes. A possibility for tonight is a move to a 3-4-1-2 , which the Fire used in the Gilberto-less second half against NYCFC to some success. If this is the formation of choice though, it remains to be seen what Goossens' insertion into the formation will mean for others. At first glance, Goossens takes over for Arturo Alvarez, but the latter was arguably the best Fire player on the pitch last Sunday. It will be interesting to see if Paunovic can find a way to work both men into the lineup, and who goes to the bench as a result.
Many Orlando City fans may still be recovering, or looking to get off Mr. Orlando's Wild Ride, after their home-opening 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake. Despite dominating possession and shots on goal, it took OCFC over 90 minutes to score two goals against a Real Salt Lake team that was down to 10 men for over 70 minutes and coming off a midweek CONCACAF Champions League match.
Once again, OCFC will be without Brazilian legend Kaka, who is out with a thigh injury. On top of that, the team will be without Carlos Rivas (ankle) and Darwin Ceren (red card suspension) for tonight's match. On the other hand, the club recently brought in former A.C. Milan midfielder Antonio Nocerino, and the Italian international is expected to make his first appearance for the club against the Fire.
While Kaka and Nocerino dominate headlines, Orlando City is filled with other familiar names. Cyle Larin, who bested Matt Polster for Rookie of the Year in 2015, has picked up where he left off last year, notching a goal and an assist in the opener. The Canadian striker is a legitimate weapon that has already enjoyed success against the Fire, playing a part in four of the six goals that the Lions scored against Chicago in 2015. He will pose an incredible challenge for a backline still coming together.
Brek Shea is an attack-minded left back familiar to U.S. national team fans. When focused and healthy, he is able to provide dangerous service into the box. Kevin Molino has been surrounded by hype for years, but an injury derailed his MLS season last year. The midfielder will be hungry to finally deliver the breakout performance many fans and pundits are expecting to see this year.
Much like New York City FC, Orlando's weakness lies in its defense, specifically a backline with a lot of youth. Shea is more offensive oriented, as is Rafael Ramos. The center back play often leaves something to be desired, be it youthful mistakes or "aggressive" challenges (looking at you Aurelien Collin).
Orlando's penchant to commit fouls is no secret. Chicago's best chances could come from David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike using their speed to draw fouls in dangerous areas, setting up free kick opportunities.
Betting Line and Predictions:
Betbrain.com has the probabilities as follows: A 27 percent change for a Chicago Fire win or a draw, Orlando City FC with a 46 percent chance of a win.
Both teams are coming off their own sort of home-opening disappointments, but Orlando gets first crack at playing in front of their home fans and redeeming themselves. With a hot and humid night in the forecast, as well as the crazed wave of purple that has made the Citrus Bowl one of the best home field advantages in the league, it's tough to see the Fire returning home with three points. With the injuries and absences of OCFC starters, I could see the Fire at least keeping it close and possibly getting a draw. I'll go on the optimistic side and say the Fire come home to Chicago with a 2-2 draw and their first point of the season.