Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire - June 4, 2017 - Nemanja Nikolic with overlay
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Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire | 2017 MLS Match Preview

Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire
2017 MLS Regular Season - Week 14
Orlando City Stadium - Orlando, Fla.
Sunday, June 4 – 7:30 pm ET
WATCH: FS1 and FOX Deportes in USA; MLS LIVE in Canada

Toronto FC (29 points) are beginning to pull away from the pack at the top of the Eastern Conference, but the Chicago Fire (2nd place, 24 points) and Orlando City (3rd place, 23 points) will lock horns on national TV in Week 14 to see which of the two can keep up the challenge.

Orlando returned to the win column – and Cyle Larin also got off the schneid – in a midweek win over D.C. United, but it's been a busy stretch for the Lions, who will play their third match in nine days. Meanwhile, the well-rested Chicago Fire, winners of four straight and undefeated in five, will look to take advantage of their 10-day layoff since their last match to earn a first-ever league win against Orlando and keep their positive run going.

"They work hard, they possess the ball, and they’re a team playing with confidence," said Orlando's Giles Barnes. "But we should have no fear of anyone. We feel we’re good enough to compete and beat anyone in the league, and that’s the attitude we have to take.”

Orlando City SC

There's been a Kaka watch in Orlando over the last week and the Brazilian star midfielder trained fully on Thursday after he missed the last two matches due to a calf injury. All indications are that he will be available to play on Sunday and the only question at that point is whether he starts or comes off the bench. His return could help the Lions in two key areas highlighted by head coach Jason Kreis:

"The truth of the matter is that we haven’t played 90 minutes of good football [this season]. We haven’t had a complete performance this year yet," Kreis told media on Thursday. "We hope that we’re out of it [the slump], but only time will tell. It’s one thing to say we’re out of it, but it’s another to go and show we’re out of it with a win on Sunday.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended next yellow card: MF Cristian Higuita
  • On Loan: FW Hadji Barry, DF Conor Donovan, MF Devron Garcia, FW Richie Laryea (Orlando City B - USL)
  • International duty: DF Tommy Redding (US U-20 national team)
  • Injury Report: None

Projected Starting XI (4-4-2, left to right): Joe Bendik — PC, Jonathan Spector, Jose Aja, Rafael Ramos — Luis Gil, Antonio Nocerino, Kaka, Will Johnson — Giles Barnes, Cyle Larin

Notes: Orlando manager Jason Kreis has not shied away from rotating players in the lineup this year and there are several potential starting XI candidates off the bench in super sub Giles Barnes, left back PC Giro, center back Leonardo Pereira and right back Rafael Ramos ... One reason for Kreis to stick with as many of his regulars as possible? There will be two weeks until the club's next league match (June 17 at home vs. Montreal).

Chicago Fire

As if Sunday wasn't a tough match to begin with – Orlando City are 6W-1L-1D at their new stadium this year – it also marks the first match of the season that the Chicago Fire will face without midfielder Dax McCarty. It's expected that MLS veteran Juninho will fill in alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger.

The Fire are undefeated in their last five league matches and that stretch includes two contests on the road, where Chicago had previously suffered all three of their losses this year (in Atlanta, Toronto and New York).

The home-road divide is also apparent in the season log for MLS top scorer Nemanja Nikolic, who has an impressive 10 goals across his last nine league matches. Nine of Nikolic's league-leading 11 tallies have come at the friendly confines of Toyota Park.

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended next yellow card: None
  • On Loan: MF Joey Calistri, DF Matej Dekovic, MF Collin Fernandez (Tulsa Roughnecks - USL)
  • International duty: MF Dax McCarty (US national team)
  • Injury Report: OUT — MF John Goossens (right ankle surgery)

Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1, left to right): Matt Lampson – Brandon Vincent, Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof, Matt Polster – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho – David Accam, Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac – Nemanja Nikolic

Notes: Head coach Veljko Paunovic has shown a penchant to tweak formations depending on the opponents and given Orlando's two-forward alignment, the potential matchup problems created by Larin and the absence of the rangy McCarty, it'll be interesting to see if the Fire decide to make a tactical adjustment and potentially re-introduce a 5-3-2 system.

All-Time Series

Orlando City have never lost to the Chicago Fire in league play since joining MLS in 2015.

The two clubs have also met twice in the US Open Cup in 2013 (when Orlando played in USL) and 2015, both finishing in victories for the Fire.

All-Time (5 league matches): Orlando - 2W-0L-3D (8 GF, 6 GA); Chicago - 0W-2L-3D (6 GF, 8 GA)

In Orlando (2 league matches): Both matches (Aug. 29, 2015 and March 11, 2016) finished in 1-1 draws.

Referees

Referee: Ted Unkel
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski (bench side), Brian Dunn (far)
Fourth Official: Marcos DeOliveira

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