Orlando City fans and media alike will have their first real opportunity to get a glimpse behind the curtain at what James O’Connor and company have been working on this preseason when the Lions host New York City FC on Saturday in their first match of the Orlando City Invitational.
Four weeks into preseason camp, with another two weeks to go until Orlando, again, hosts NYCFC in their season opener on March 2, the Lions are 1-1-1 in their three exhibitions so far, most recently falling to the Philadelphia Union, 4-1.
O’Connor, while admitting that you play to win the game, isn’t so worried about preseason results as much as the players are at understanding what they should be doing on the field, which he feels has been positive so far.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win,” O’Connor said before Wednesday’s training session. “Listen, if we say here, we’re going to go to the training field, I’m going to want to beat you and get there first. Naturally, you’re always going to want to win. I think where you’re going to want to manage expectations is, is winning in preseason important, or is it more important to get match-load minutes and game understanding as regards to attacking and defensive principles? That’s where you really need to pay attention to, OK, for what we’re trying to teach, what is the level of learning? That’s something that we’re going through.
“For us, we’ve been through a good few weeks now, so we have an indication as to what people are understanding, areas that they’re fully on board with and other areas that need work,” he added. “It’s more a case of making sure that individual understands the specifics of the role that we’re asking them to do.”
For the second consecutive offseason, the Lions overhauled much of their roster, leaving many to wonder just what O’Connor was planning to do with the new lineup heading into the season. So far, given the limited information we’ve gotten out of camp so far, it seems that the 3-5-2 formation, as expected, has been a focus.
It’s unlikely that we’ll see O’Connor show all of the cards he has up his sleeves, but it’ll be an opportunity to see firsthand who’s pulling ahead in key position battles. The matches against NYCFC, Minnesota United FC, and New England Revolution over the next week will also be prime opportunities for Orlando to prepare themselves for what they’ll be up against once the games start to count, and find a good form to hit the ground running come March — and, ideally, not lose it two months in.
“The preseason, for us, is very, very tough,” O’Connor said. “For the players, it’s very demanding. You need to realize, we need to realize, as a coaching staff, there’s going to be concentration errors. There’s going to be mistakes that are made because they are fatigued. That’s what we need to try to train.
“We need to get the level in preseason that it’s very, very high, that they have an ability, once the season starts, to deal with fatigue and to push through it. Then, the fitter you are, the harder it is to make poor decisions. That’s what we’re going through.”
Here’s what’s in tap for the Orlando City Invitational
New England Revolution vs. Minnesota United at 4:30 p.m.
Orlando City SC vs. New York City FC at 7:30 p.m.
New York City FC vs. Minnesota United at 4:30 p.m.
Orlando City SC vs. New England Revolution at 7:30 p.m.
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(Photo by Austin David / Orlando Soccer Journal)
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