(Editor Note: Apologies for the slight delay in today’s recap, our Ryan Voyles has recently found himself wrapped up in Netflix’s Stranger Things and had to finish the final two episodes before getting to this afternoon’s Fire action. He will now spend the rest of the night terrified monsters will come out of his wall)
The hunt for the Lamar… er, Hunt U.S. Open Cup is officially out the window and, with results like Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Orlando City, the Chicago Fire’s fleeting chances for a playoff spot are right on the ledge.
Realists and us lowly prognosticators at HTIOT have basically ruled out watching any meaningful soccer from the Fire until 2017; with the team entering Sunday’s action eight points out of the last playoff spot. The club basically needs to come close to winning out its final 13 matches, and hope for at least four teams in front of them in the standings to have epic collapses in the coming months.
One of those teams in front of the Fire was Orlando City, who were tied for the final playoff spot and coming to Bridgeview winless in their last nine road matches (dating back to March).
After ripping out their fans hearts through their chest in Tuesday’s match, could Sunday be the chance for the Fire to lull fans into a false sense of security that this season has not been a complete waste?
Of course, we’re talking about the Fire; they did Fire things on Saturday and walked out of Bridgeview nowhere closer to turning this season into anything more than a wash.
At the very least, Sunday’s match was more exciting in its first 15 minutes than the whole 90 minutes of Tuesday’s Open Cup semifinals.
In the sixth minute, the Fire got on the board thanks to a long distance shot from midfielder John Goossens. The Dutchman jumped on rebounded shot that forced a quality save from goalkeeper Joe Bendik, and Goossens seemingly shocked Orlando City and Bendik by taking a low shot from about 8 yards out of the box, as the shot slipped by a slow reacting Bendik and into the corner of the net.
Since this is the Chicago Fire we’re talking about here, that victory was short-lived.
In the ninth minute, Orlando leveled the score when Kaka chipped a perfect ball over the top to a streaking Cyle Larin, who muscled off Campbell as he charged into the box and slotted the ball past Sean Johnson to level the score.
Amazingly, the score stayed 1-1 for a while despite both teams throwing defense to the wind. The combo of Michael De Leeuw and David Accam caused fits for the Orlando backline and Bendik, while the 2009 Milan model Kaka kept the pressure on the Fire and Johnson (and props to Kappelhof here for doing his best to close down on Kaka whenever possible).
Orlando found a way to break through in the 32nd minute when a Servando Carrasco cross found its way right to Larin’s head, though the Canadian wonder inexplicably missed all the open net in front of him and glanced off the left post. In true 2016 style of the Chicago Fire’s season, the ball then went right to Kaka, who calmly put the ball in net and gave Orlando a 2-1 lead. Both sides had a few more opportunities to add to the score before half, but it was not meant to be.
The second half saw the debut of Luis Solignac, as the Argentinian subbed on at halftime for the continually underwhelming play of Khaly Thian. Solignac’s impact would be felt a little bit later, but fans were taken on another roller coaster of emotion early on in the half after Goossens chance that was saved by Bendik’s foot was called offsides. Shortly afterward, Orlando nearly made it 3-1 after Kaka went the length of the field and performed the soccer equivalent of posterizing Eric Gehrig, as Kaka sent Gehrig to the turf as he made a break into the box. Fire fans could let out a sigh of relief soon afterward though as Kaka’s pass across the face of goal missed everything, with Larin reacting a second too slow to what could have been an easy tap-in for his second goal of the match.
If being schooled by Kaka wasn’t Gehrig’s worst moment of the match, it was when he misplayed a ball in the backfield that Larin jumped on and shot the ball point-blank right at Johnson. The latter two fought for the rebound, and Larin went down in the box with no call as Johnson cleaned up the danger.
Solignac made his mark on the match in the 78th minute as his individual charge into the box forced a diving stop from Bendik and led to a Fire corner.
The corner was just what the Fire needed, as the ball was passed to Brandon Vincent, whose cross into the box found a high-leaping Răzvan Cociș, whose header flew past a slow reacting Bendik to level the score 2-2.
After a quick save shortly afterward from Johnson (Gee, would have been nice if he would have been available Tuesday…), the rest of the match saw the Fire go on the offensive and push Orlando on their back heels. The most important moment of the last 10 minutes was when Arturo Alvarez collided with Luke Boden in the box; drawing cries from fan base for a penalty kick in the dying moments of the match, but referee Mark Geiger was having no part of it. It was all for naught though, as the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
The Fire will return to action this Saturday as they travel to America’s hat and face off against ol’ friend Harry Shipp and the Montreal Impact.