Friday night soccer isn’t a thing that normally attracts big crowds. In fact, MLS only has games on Friday nights to accommodate Spanish Language broadcast partner Univision. But in Orlando, any night is a good night for soccer and a crowd of 29,041 filled the Florida Citrus Bowl to witness Orlando City fail to take home three points against a Chicago side that was down to ten men for the majority of the match. The 1-1 draw will no doubt leave Chicago the more satisfied side.
Antonio Nocerino made his Orlando City SC debut slotting into an attacking midfield role in place of the injured Kaká . When the Brazilian legend returns to action, perhaps as early as next week in New York, Nocerino will likely drop to a holding midfield role playing behind Kaká.
Orlando’s marksman Cyle Larin opened the scoring in minute four against a Chicago defense that appeared disorganized from the opening whistle. It was Larin’s second goal in five minutes of play going back to Sunday’s late goal against Real Salt Lake. At that point it seemed the Lions would run riot as the Fire who conceded four goals at home last week to New York City FC appeared to be toothless in defense once again.
Chicago set up in a 3-5-2 formation, which twenty years ago was vogue in world football but has since faded away. In recent years though clubs have played it in spots and the Fire under Veljko Paunovic have worked on. The formation lends itself to strong wide play but Chicago’s goal in minute fourteen came right down the middle of the pitch when David Accam got behind Seb Hines and finished a nice counterattacking move with a goal.
The Fire’s Michael Harrington was sent off in minute thirty two for a cynical foul involving a high boot AND studs up – both are FIFA mandated bookable offenses, and Referee Ted Unkel after some hesitation pulled out a red card, reducing Chicago to ten men for the remainder of the match. Despite this, the Fire seemed comfortable for the final thirteen minutes of the half and ran into the dressing room the happier of the two sides with the 1-1 scoreline.
Orlando switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation in the second half pushing Kevin Molino to the middle and Nocerino out wide. Even defending down a man, Orlando was made to work for chances and while they created some, Chicago seemed as lethal on the counter attack. Orlando never really forced a great save out of Chicago keeper Matt Lampson and the match finished 1-1.
The Lions next match in MLS play will be against expansion cousin New York City FC next Friday at Yankee Stadium.