BRADENTON, Fla. - Approximately one week after beginning training, Orlando City SC began their 2014 preseason campaign with a tough test against Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire at the IMG facilities in Bradenton, Fla. With a roster comprised of 13 signed players and numerous trial players, the Lions suffered a 3-0 defeat to the Chicago based club.
“I thought that some of our guys looked okay, but I think it’s difficult when you’re playing an MLS team that’s two or three weeks ahead of you in terms of conditioning,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the loss. “We learned something about one or two of our players but we’ll get better as we move forward in the preseason.”
Orlando began the match on the front-foot and their possession-oriented style of play was on display, despite having two trialists in the starting eleven. For the first ten minutes, the Lions were able to move the ball around the pitch effectively, as Chicago sat back with a heavy defensive bunker.
City’s movement of the ball would eventually yield their first chance when new signing Austin Da Luz struck a cracking effort from just outside the area. Da Luz’s strike was a looping one, and went just inches over the cross-bar.
However despite managing the tempo for the opening portion of the first-half, the Lions would find themselves down 1-0 after a costly error from trialist Miguel Ibarra. The right-back found himself in an awkward position during a Chicago counter-attack and was forced to bring down Midfielder Harry Shipp just outside the area.
Shipp, who was heavily involved in the Fire’s movement going forward in the first half, curled his effort around the wall and into the bottom corner past Goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo.
In the ensuing moments, the Fire began playing at a higher tempo as Shipp’s free-kick seemed to have brought a bit more life into their play. Instead of bunkering in with defensive walls, Chicago began pressing the Orlando defense higher up the pitch and created several opportunities.
Nevertheless, a clearance off the line from Da Luz and a few big saves from Gallardo would allow City to regain a grip on the match. As a result, Watson and Chin began getting more involved in the run of play and allowed the Lions to play a bit more direct.
However, after a few half-chances from both Watson and Chin, matters would get worse for Orlando when guest player Daniel Jackson doubled the Fire’s lead in the 29th minute. An errant pass from the City defense landed at Jackson’s feet outside the box and, with ample time and space, the Midfielder was able to roll the ball into the back of the net.
The second half began with Heath making five changes, which featured three trial players and new signings Corey Hertzog and Carl Woszcyski. Returning players Anthony Pulis, Jamie Watson and Miguel Gallardo were all given the rest of the night off.
Chicago also made several changes of their own to begin the second 45, one of which included former Lion Freddie Braun, who is currently on trial with the Fire.
Orlando once again opened the half as the more dominant side, in terms of possession, but struggled to create threatening opportunities in the final third. The Fire, who are further along in their preseason, sustained the pressure being implemented by City, and responded with timely attacks on the counter.
One of those timely attacks would eventually result in Chicago’s third goal of the match, when Braun found himself in a fortunate position. Fire Midfielder Brendan King’s effort from the right-hand side was deflected off the posted and landed perfectly for Braun, who slotted it past Woszczyski in the 77th minute for the third and final goal of the match.
The Lions’ next preseason match will occur in their first Disney Pro Soccer Classic game against the Philadelphia Union, on February 19, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.