The pouring rain should have been the first clue that this game was going to be strange.
After having two goals called back by VAR, a penalty saved after a fight over who should take the shot, and more problems with poor marking and poor finishing, the Chicago Fire lost yet another match in 2020, this time a 4-1 defeat to Orlando City at Exploria Stadium Saturday night.
The defeat saw the team drop to the bottom of the MLS standings. After the match, forward CJ Sapong got philosophical about the team’s recent struggles, with a famous quote about people making their own luck.
“Luck is, they say, when preparation meets opportunity,” Sapong said. “So that’s where we have to do our due diligence, keep preparing the right way, and when we get those opportunities and those chances, we put them away.”
It would certainly be easy to blame bad luck for this Fire loss. Orlando scored the opener in the 11th minute, when Schaumburg native Chris Mueller scored off a weak shot that was deflected and slid into Chicago’s net in the pouring rain.
A shot by Ignacio Aliseda hit the post in the 20th minute, and not long after that Orlando superstar Nani converted a header after being poorly marked by Boris Sekulić, making it 2-0 Orlando.
That’s when things started to get really strange. Francisco Calvo headed home a beautiful ball off a set piece by Álvaro Medrán, but it was disallowed because Elliot Collier—who did not appear to have any effect on the goal—was found to be offside by VAR.
Shortly after, Orlando defender Ruan was called for a handball in the box. As Raphael Wicky looked on, Medrán and Robert Berić argued for nearly a minute over who would take the penalty, when finally Calvo stepped in to settle the dispute. Medrán took the shot, which was saved.
“I told the team at halftime it’s my fault,” Wicky said. “I take it on me. I didn’t assign a player who takes the penalty, but then what happened after is unacceptable. It can not happen. If a player says I’m going to take it, then the other player has to say ok.”
The penalty taker issue was cleared up in the second half. Mueller took Miguel Navarro down in the box in the 48th minute, and Berić stepped up to the spot and buried the shot, cutting Orlando’s lead in half.
The Fire appeared to equalize in the 57th minute, when, through heavy traffic, Sekulić put away a ball that skipped his way off a corner kick. But, VAR took away this goal as well, when it was found that the ball hit Mauricio Pineda’s hand earlier in the play.
“All these little things right now are not going our way,” Wicky said. “Sometimes in life, it happens. I don’t know why. I don’t have the answer for that.”
Orlando went on to score twice more. Junior Urso made it 3-1 in the 78th minute, and Benji Michel scored late in stoppage time to make it 4-1 Orlando.
“I think anybody that’s watching that game says that that’s unlucky,” Sapong said. “I believe that energetically, there’s always a way to approach the game with optimism, and obviously as the results don’t go your way, that’s harder and harder to do.”
Having won just once in the last nine games, the loss leaves the Fire in last place in the East. But with 10 teams making the playoffs, the team is still only three points out of a postseason spot.
“We’ve got to be better on both ends of the field,” said Wicky. “It reflects a little bit the whole season. We’re playing well, we’re creating a lot of big, big chances, we’re giving up too many, two easy goals again. But it reflects a little bit the whole season where right now, for whatever reason, those little things go against us. They don’t fall to our side.”
Next Up: The Fire have back-to-back home matches at Soldier Field. On Wednesday, the team hosts Houston Dynamo (6:30 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+) and on Sunday, Sept. 27, the Fire face Atlanta United (6:30 p.m. CT, WGN & ESPN+).
Chicago Fire FC: GK Shuttleworth, D Sekulić (M Azira 85’), D Pineda (D Omsberg 85’), D Calvo ©, D Navarro, M Mihailović (M Gutiérrez 81’), M Giménez, M Medrán (D Bronico 85’), M Aliseda, M Collier (F Sapong 65’), F Berić
Subs not used: GK Slonina, D Bornstein, D Reynolds II, M Casas Jr.
Orlando City SC: GK Gallese, D Ruan, D Jansson, D Carlos, D Miller (D Smith HT), M Mendez (M Perea 66’), M Mueller (F Michel 75’), M Pereyra (M DeZart 75’), M Urso, F Nani ©, F Dike (F Akindele 66’)
Subs not used: D De John, D Schlegel, GK Rowe, M Robinho