The games didn’t count and the trophy at the end was made up and meaningless.
But for Orlando City, a 6-2 win over the New England Revolution Wednesday night — four days after a strong performance against New York City FC, counts for a lot more as the Lions are starting to roll heading into the final week of preseason and for real this time against NYCFC on March 2.
“There are so many positives that we’ll be able to draw upon, which is very encouraging,” head coach James O’Connor said on Wednesday. “I think the movement, the understanding of space was excellent. There was quite a few things to be pleased about, but again it’s preseason.”
The Lions went into Wednesday’s match with an entirely different starting lineup — full of reserve players, academy prospects, and Orlando City B players — than what they ran out last Saturday against NYCFC.
And to the surprise of just about everyone, ran all over a near first-choice lineup for New England.
If anything, it shows a fight and commitment from top to bottom of the roster — something O’Connor has been looking to instill in the club this preseason — and keeps a strong positive in the squad heading into its final week of preseason prep.
The Lions closed out preseason play on Saturday with 90-minute and 60-minute sessions against Minnesota United in a closed-door scrimmage. O’Connor said the plan for those sessions will be to mostly manage the workloads of the players and get them to their goals for the preseason.
From there, the focus will shift towards March 2 and their opening day match-up at home against NYCFC (2:30 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes).
“Basically, it’ll be a following up of what we’ve done over the last five weeks,” O’Connor said about what the next week of training will be like. “We’ll be intentional about looking at New York, and going through their strengths and their weaknesses and opportunities where we feel they’re maybe going to come at us and we can go at them.”
After more than a handful of games, the vibe around the team has been mostly positive. The Lions will finish out the preseason with an unofficial record of 3-1-1 (not including the many unreported scrimmages in between) and with confidence high. We’re not going to see a finished product on March 2, but things have been coming along pleasantly for O’Connor and the coaching staff.
“I think if you said we were going to get that level of performance at this stage of the preseason and you look at the performance against New York, I think we’d be pleased,” O’Connor said after the New England match. “It’s preseason, so we need to make sure we’ve very intentional about what we’re doing.”
Time is winding down until the season kicks off, but one thing is for sure, Orlando City will be ready.
“The guys have been working really, really hard,” O’Connor said. “We’ve had a plan, we’ve had a workload that we want to make sure each player hits and we’re going to fulfill that. We’ve got a game Saturday against Minnesota. But when I look at the attitude of the players and the work from the coaching staff and the support staff, the volume of work that everyone is doing is fantastic.”
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