Fire-Orlando City Preview

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Once again, the Chicago Fire and Orlando City SC will miss the playoffs.

That essentially leaves them with only pride to for when these clubs meet Sunday in Orlando to conclude the regular season.

Decision Day will have no suspense for Chicago (9-12-12) and Orlando (9-14-10), sides that were both eliminated prior to this regular-season finale. The Fire will miss the postseason for a second straight year and sixth in the last season. Five seasons into its MLS existence, Orlando still has not made a playoff appearance, though offered a decent account of itself in 2019.

The Fire extended their unbeaten run to four games (1-0-3) with a 2-2 draw last weekend against Toronto FC in the team’s final game at SeatGeek Stadium before moving back to Soldier Field next season. However, Chicago’s playoff hopes were dashed with New England’s win over New York City FC.

Aleksandar Katai leveled the match for Chicago in the 68th minute and Fabian Herbers put the home side ahead in the 77th minute. But, TFC equalized three minutes later to share the spoils.

“One more game where we gave our best. That’s something that was always there this season,” coach Veljko Paunovic, whose future with the Fire might be a bit uncertain, told the club’s official website.

“The whole season (has been) hard for us, but that’s what it is … This one game left, I think it’s important to be professional, to respect everyone. To respect the opponents, and respect ourselves.”After that, we’ll see. There will be time to discuss the future.”

It’s uncertain what kind of lineup Chicago put on the pitch for this finale. Nemanja Nikolic and C.J. Sapong are tied for the team lead with 12 goals apiece. Sapong equalized in the fifth minute of stoppage time after Dom Dwyer scored just after halftime when Chicago and Orlando played to a 1-1 draw in March.

City’s postseason dreams ended with a 1-1 at lowly FC Cincinnati last weekend. Benji Michel’s goal in the 91st minute gave Orlando a point, but it wasn’t enough to stay alive in the playoff race while now 0-3-4 since a 1-0 home victory over Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 14.

“We were down, so we (had to do whatever it took) to get the goal,” Michel said. “That’s what we did. We got a goal, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough.

“You should see us fighting for three points (against Chicago). That’s what you’ll see.”

Orlando’s Nani has a team-leading 12 goals, and also tied the single-season club record with 10 assists.

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