A double by Nemanja Nikolic helped Chicago Fire sink a very poor and out of sorts Orlando City as Chicago moved off the foot of the table and above their fellow strugglers this season. The truth in the matter is, Orlando showed a shocking level of defending in what was another heavy defeat on the road for MLS’s poorest team this season. This piece will look at the match from a tactical point of view, analysing where and when it went wrong for Orlando and right for Chicago.
Orlando City’s Defensive Structure
One of the key reasons Orlando found themselves on the end of a 4-0 drubbing was due to the horrendous defensive line they possessed, as well as the lack of cohesion with the midfield. These two factors combined to ensure that Chicago Fire were awarded plenty of spaces both in behind and between the lines, for which they punished Orlando.
Just three minutes into the game, Orlando’s defence was punished for their lack of defensive structure. After losing the ball in midfield following a corner for Chicago Fire, the Orlando defence found themselves all at sea. Chicago forward Nikolic is found in acres of space in the middle of the Orlando box, and makes no mistake in putting Chicago one-up.
This theme of poor defensive structure continued throughout the half and was a constant problem for Orlando. More often than not, Chicago’s Djordje Mihailovic and his fellow Chicago forwards found themselves in space between the Orlando defence and midfield, wreaking havoc on Orlando. Orlando found themselves lucky in that Chicago’s defence and deep midfield couldn’t find their fellow teammates in attack, and the attacks fizzled out into nothing.
Below are just two in a number of examples of the space afforded to Chicago’s forward line when attacking.
In the second half, Orlando improved their passing and attacking, creating chances in hope of making an unlikely comeback, however, this left the team horribly exposed at the back. A mistake by midfielder Yoshimar Yotun, exposed the Orlando defence, with Raheem Edwards setting up Nikolic for his second of the game. The goal was an example of a lack of defensive know-how by Orlando, as when the ball was given away there was nobody but one defender back to stop a potential counter.
Chicago Fire’s High Press
Even though Orlando looked poor, and deservedly got thrashed in a one-way game. Chicago can be applauded for their forward thinking tactics and high press which caused Orlando many, many problems. Chicago’s high press was the cause of three of the four goals, as they had pressured Orlando into making varying mistakes.
The first goal was scored right after Chicago had lost the ball from their own corner kick. It was won back by Dax McCarty, who played the ball forward to De Leeuw, who crossed it for Nikolic to roll into an empty net.
Chicago’s tactics were spot on as they continued to pester and lay siege to the Orlando defence not giving any of their players a moments rest. This carried on throughout the first half when their pressing caused yet more havoc when the ball was passed back to goalkeeper Joe Bednik, who under pressure produced a heavy touch, which in turn produced goal number two. Three Chicago players made movements towards the ball, pressuring Bednik into a horrendous mistake, which showed just how perfectly Chicago’s tactics worked.
Overall, three of the four goals were as a result of Chicago’s high pressing game and winning the ball up the field. As mentioned above, the fourth goal was caused as Edwards won the ball high up, then squared to Nikolic for his second.
The game could’ve been played out much differently had Orlando adopted a better defensive structure. The lack of defensive responsibility and cohesion with their midfield meant Orlando suffered when Chicago adopted a high pressing game. The lack of options in midfield due to a lack of communication with their midfielders meant that when the pressure was on, Orlando suffered. Orlando are going to have to improve their defence if they are to pick up any more points going towards the end of the MLS season.
However, plaudits have to be given the Chicago and their coach Veljko Paunović, who got their tactics spot on. They didn’t give Orlando a moments rest throughout the game, which was shown in three of the four goals they scored. Chicago still hold slim playoff hopes, and if they can replicate yesterday’s performance then they will be in with a shout of qualifying for the postseason playoffs.