For Orlando City, last Saturday not only marked the end of a club record nine-game losing streak for the Lions after defeating Toronto FC 2-1, but the first MLS win for newly appointed head coach, James O’Connor.
In his return home to Orlando, after spending 2012-2014 with the USL iteration of the Lions, it marked a momentous occasion for O’Connor. Coaching his first top flight match in the stadium he helped metaphorically build, while breaking the team losing streak in the process. Emotions around the stadium ran high for the first time in months, but on the field, O’Connor had a measured approach to his first MLS win.
“Obviously delighted that we were able to win,” O’Connor said after the match. “It’s really important that we got a win. First and foremost I’m really pleased for the players, the supporters and for the ownership group to be able to get that win.”
“There were some lovely passages of play, but there’s lots of things that I think we can be sharper on, we want to be sharper on. But it’s going to take a little bit of time. But we’re delighted with the win,” added O’Connor. “I thought there were some lovely passages, some really good movement. I thought we created a number of opportunities. We just need to be a little bit more clinical. But we can be really proud of the players’ effort tonight. I thought the level of commitment and the effort from the players was really, really good tonight.”
As one of the youngest coaches in the league and in only his second match in charge of the team, O’Connor showed he was up for the daunting challenge of trying to right the ship. Getting the win, regardless of opponent, was a positive step forward and one that the team can now use as a building block for the rest of the season.
Not only does the win break the losing streak, but it’s also a confidence builder, not just for the players, but the players trust in their new manager. Breaking that kind of streak in only his second game in charge could help advance the already rushed process of O’Connor’s integration into the team and help them possibly make a run back into playoff contention.
“People need to understand, it’s been a really difficult time for the players,” said O’Connor. “Like in everything in life, when you go through a difficult time, you start to get a lot of self-doubt, your confidence gets hit. When you look at the quality of our play tonight, the chance-creation, that was something we were really pleased with. I thought we had some really good opportunities, good chance-creation, which was great.”
“I thought we looked a little bit better defensively. Still have a little bit to do there. But no, overall, considering everything, we have to be really pleased with the win.”
While it’s only one win in only two games under James O’Connor, the team is trending in the right direction for the first time in months and though he may not admit it publicly, Orlando’s new manager had a big part to play in the process.
(Photos Courtesy of Maddie Schroeder)
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