Nine man Orlando City grabs point against Chicago Fire

Orlando City Soccer 0 Chicago Fire 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 4th June 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Orlando City SC hung on to grab a priceless point in a scoreless draw against Chicago Fire on Sunday night as they ended the game with just nine men at Orlando City Stadium.

Much of the talk after the game revolved around match referee Ted Unkel’s (pictured above center) decision to dismiss Orlando’s Rafael Ramos and Antonio Nocerino with straight red cards in the 26th and 66th minutes respectively.

Orlando City Soccer 0 Chicago Fire 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 4th June 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

After a lengthy recovery from multiple hamstring injuries, right back Rafael Ramos (pictured above) made his 2017 debut for Orlando City as part of the Lions’ starting lineup against Chicago. The debut lasted just 26 minutes as he saw red after colliding with Fire defender Brandon Vincent while tracking a high, long cross from the right side. It was a controversial call from Unkel as there appeared to be no dangerous intent from Ramos to harm Vincent.

The decision to dismiss Nocerino was a little more understandable as the midfielder led with a foot that caught Matt Polster high on the hip as they competed for a loose ball. Other referee’s may have taken a moment to collect themselves before deciding a course of action but on both occasions Unkel was quick to reach for his red card.

Orlando City Soccer 0 Chicago Fire 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 4th June 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Before the game, Orlando Head Coach Jason Kreis surprised the 24,469 crowd by making three changes to the defence that had kept a clean sheet in their home game against D.C. United last Wednesday. Out went Scott Sutter, José Aja and Donny Toia and in came Ramos, Léonardo Pereira and Victor “PC” Giro. There is an old saying in football that you should never change a winning team and it is practically unheard of to change an established defence that has kept a clean sheet in the previous game but that is what Kreis did and nearly with disastrous results. Chicago started the better of the two teams controlling possession and exploiting the space on the right hand wing as well as the holes that Pereira left as time and time again he wandered out of position.

Orlando City Soccer 0 Chicago Fire 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 4th June 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Orlando created very little before the dramatic decision that changed the whole game as forwards Carlos Rivas and Cyle Larin both looked leggy and lethargic as they failed to create anything that would trouble a decent Chicago side superbly marshaled by former World Cup winner and German international captain Bastian Schweinsteiger. Rivas and Larin weren’t helped by a midfield of Nocerino, Will Johnson, Giles Barnes and Cristian Higuita who simply kept playing balls across midfield or back to the defensive unit in a frustrating manner. Even free kicks in the opponents half often made their way back to goalkeeper Joe Bendik.

After the Ramos sending off, Kreis switched to a 4-4-1 formation, putting Will Johnson at right back, where he played a few games at the start of the season due to the team’s injury woes. At half time right back Sutter came on for the unfortunate Giles Barnes so that Johnson could move back to the midfield and potentially offer more attacking threat down the right hand side. Then came the Nocerino dismissal and Kreis decided to hunker down to try and defend the point by removing Larin and bringing on holding midfielder Servando Carrasco in the 70th minute.

“When you go down to nine, you’re certainly just playing for the draw,” Kreis said, adding he was still going for the win when the team had 10 men. “Even as the game wore on, at halftime I’m talking to the coaching staff about how we’re gonna win the game, not about how we’re gonna draw the game. So, all of our decisions were bending that way until we got the second ejection, then it’s just like, ‘How are we gonna hold on?’”

Orlando City Soccer 0 Chicago Fire 0, Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, 4th June 2017 (Photographer: Nigel G Worrall)

Hold on they did though and it was an impressive backs to the wall performance by the team to hold out a Chicago side that enjoyed nearly 70% of the possession without really creating a threat.  The Fire were twice denied the winning goal by the woodwork as the game went into stoppage time as first Polster fired a shot off the crossbar from a low cut back cross from the influential Michael de Leeuw and moments later, de Leeuw set up substitute David Arshakyan whose attempt rattled the bar with Bendik well beaten.

Orlando City will now enjoy a two-week break from MLS play for the FIFA international window. The Lions begin their 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run on Wednesday, June 14, against Miami FC. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET at Orlando City Stadium.

Lineups/Substitutions:
Orlando City SC – GK Joe Bendik, D PC, Léo Pereira, Jonathan Spector, Rafael Ramos, M Cristian Higuita, Ⓒ Will Johnson, Antonio Nocerino, Giles Barnes (Scott Sutter 46’), F Carlos Rivas (Kaká 59’), Cyle Larin (Servando Carrasco 71’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Josh Saunders, D José Aja, M Matías Pérez García, Luis Gil
Chicago Fire – GK Matt Lampson, D Brandon Vincent, Johan Kappelhof, João Meira, Drew Conner (Djordje Mihailovic 71’), M Matt Polster, Bastian Schweinsteiger, David Accam (David Arshakyan 76’), Luis Solignac (Arturo Alvarez 55’), F Ⓒ Michael de Leeuw, Nemanja Nikolic

Substitutes Not Used: GK Jorge Bava, D Jonathan Campbell, Michael Harrington, M Brandt Bronico

Attendance: 24,469

More photos at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com

 

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