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Orlando City extends MLS unbeaten streak to 5 with win over Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire midfielder Fabian Herbers (21) and Orlando City midfielder Joey DeZart go after the ball during the first half on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium. (John Raoux/AP)

Under a deluge of late-summer rain, Orlando City clinched a win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday to extend the Lions’ MLS unbeaten streak to five games.

It was the type of victory the Lions (9-4-7, 34) needed to tug themselves back into the second spot in the Eastern Conference standings, with the 1-0 triumph pulling the team back ahead of Philadelphia and Nashville by a pair of points.

Orlando City forward Benji Michel (right) gets a hug from forward Silvester van der Water after Michel's goal on Saturday against the Chicago Fire. (John Raoux/AP)
After the game started in disjointed style, the Lions snapped the Fire defense with a single chance in the 51st minute.
Tesho Akindele pounced on a Fire defender from behind, knocking the ball straight to the feet of Benji Michel. The winger faced nothing but open space between himself and the goal, charging into the box before unleashing a brutal strike to take the lead.

“I give all of my credit to Tesho,” Michel said. “His work ethic, his relentless running, pressing the centerback and being able to nick the ball away from him, pick his pocket, that just left through on goal. I knew this was probably my only chance to score, so I knew I had to be clinical and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Captain Luis Nani also helped to bolster the offense after missing the team’s midweek game against Nashville because of an unspecified lower body injury. But after half an hour of play, the winger went down awkwardly and immediately called for a substitute.

Chris Mueller entered in under a minute to replace the captain, who was able to walk off the pitch on his own.

With a rotated attacking group, Orlando City struggled at times to create fluid offensive possessions. But the Lions thought they’d done enough to create a scoring chance in the final minute of first-half regulation when Ruan cut back a cross to set up Akindele on a one-on-one breakaway up the gut of the field.

He shouldered Fire defender Mauricio Pineda off the ball, but the centerback grabbed a fistful of Akindele’s kit to drag him to the pitch. Despite protests from Orlando City players on the pitch and coaches on the bench, the referee didn’t award a foul even after video review.

Although the call ended the half in frustration, the Lions created significant chances in the first half to stoke the team’s attack.

Winger Silvester van der Water carved the Fire box apart with curling crosses but couldn’t connect with his teammates through the first half of play.

In his fifth start in goal, keeper Mason Stajduhar kept the team alive through the first shutout win of his MLS career. Stajduhar made his fourth and final save of the night in the 95th minute, punching away a point-blank shot with both hands.

“He has been working very hard since we came here,” coach Oscar Pareja said. “Mason has got through many things. That will be a long conversation. But when I saw him today making those couple saves that made the points for our boys, it just reminded me all the effort he’s gone through in this time. He’s the product of the region; he’s the product of the academy. The patience and the personality that he showed today is tremendous. I think his growth has been speeding up lately.”

The Lions will host instate rival Inter Miami on Friday. Nani and Gallese will travel to Los Angeles during the week to participate in the MLS All Star Game on Wednesday.


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