Orlando City, Fire look to shake off losses

Orlando City has shown the ability to score goals this season, but its defense needs to iron out some rough spots.

In a matchup of teams looking to get back in the win column, the Lions square off at home against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.

After a club-record six-game winning streak, Orlando hopes to avoid its third straight loss. Following a 2-1 setback at home to Atlanta, the Lions fell by the same score five nights later on the road against defending MLS Cup champion Toronto FC.

Orlando midfielder Will Johnson said the club’s defense needs to tighten up in order to move up in the standings.

“Right now, we’re middle-of-the-pack, winning some games, losing some games,” Johnson said. “To get to that next level, we (got to) earn that respect and that comes through executing defensive plays and getting more shutouts.”

Led by Dom Dwyer with six goals, Orlando (6-4-1) has 21 this season, but surrendered 18 — the most among teams in the top six in the Eastern Conference. Entering play this weekend, the Lions are in fifth place in the East, two points ahead of the New England Revolution but only two points behind the fourth-place New York Red Bulls.

Orlando coach Jason Kreis believes his team is headed in a positive direction.

“If we can marry a performance with the result, I think we can go on another tear like we did a few weeks back,” he said.

Wins have been hard to come by when the Lions and Fire meet in Florida. All three matches have resulted in ties — including a scoreless draw last June 4 in which Orlando played two men down for the final 24 minutes.

Chicago (2-4-1) is eighth in the East, eight points behind Orlando. After dropping just two matches at home in 2017, the Fire doubled that total with a 3-2 loss to Houston on Sunday.

Bastian Schweinsteiger is clearly frustrated with a team that has been outscored 6-2 in two straight losse and has a minus-5 goal differential this year.

“We can always say week to week, ‘We have to look forward, we have to look forward and forget about that,'” the German standout said, “but I disagree at the moment. We have to step up, everyone has to take responsibility. (It) should not always be the veteran players, every player on the field has to step up.’

One bright spot last week for Chicago was Nemaja Nikolic scoring his team-high sixth goal of the season — and first since April 21 — to go with an assist. No other player on the Fire has more than two goals and Schweinsteiger has one.

In his first year in MLS in 2017, the Serbian forward won the Golden Boot with 24 goals and was an All-Star. He scored in Chicago’s 4-0 home win over Orlando last June 24.