How a winning run for the first time this season may salvage Orlando City’s playoff push


Orlando City head coach James O’Connor during a match against the Montreal Impact on March 16, 2019 (Photo by Terrance Coakley / Orlando Soccer Journal).

Following Saturday’s 3-3 draw against the New England Revolution, James O’Connor said Orlando City is going to need some luck and help from other teams to increase their chances of playing in the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs for the first time.

But heading into their final three games of the season, the Lions are going to have to do something they haven’t been able to do at all this season in league play and that’s going on a winning run.

For O’Connor, it’s been frustrating but pointed at how vital it will be this time around.

“Look, it’s obviously really important,” said O’Connor before Tuesday’s training session. “I think that’s probably a big frustration of ours is that we haven’t really put a run where we’ve been able to go back-to-back-to-back. We had it in the Open Cup and league where we had a little run where we got some wins.

“But I think for us, going into the final three games of the year, I think it becomes really important for us to be able to go and try to do that.”

Orlando’s longest unbeaten run (wins and draws) this season was four games in August, but the Lions are the only team in Major League Soccer that hasn’t been able to string two or more wins this year — a first since joining the league in 2015.

With nine available points up for grabs, that would put the Lions on 45 points in the East and perhaps a playoff spot — given Chicago, the Montreal Impact, New England and even the New York Red Bulls drop points in their respective final games of the season.

O’Connor, however, said it’s going to take a complete 90-minute performance from his players heading into the final stretch of games this season, citing that’s the only thing that can yield positive results for Orlando who sit 10th in the Eastern Conference standings with 36 points — four points away from the last playoff spot.

“We aren’t in a position now to be able to fully control our own destiny,” said O’Connor. “So what we need to do is make sure we get a strong performance, try to get three points in Houston and then see what happens after that.”

“That’s the biggest thing for us, it’s making sure our focus is on one particular game,” he added. “Let’s worry about Houston and then hopefully if we can go and get the win, we’ll see what happens after that.”

The Lions travel to take on the Houston Dynamo on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium before travelling again when they meet FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium on Sept. 29.

Orlando City closes out the regular season when it takes on the Chicago Fire on Oct. 6 at Exploria Stadium.

For midfielder Carlos Ascues, who featured in last weekend’s match against the Revolution, his only focus is on winning Orlando’s final three games of the season.

“Right now we believe that winning these next three games, we’ll qualify,” said Ascues. “The confidence of this group remains the same, even better I think, we just have to focus on the upcoming game which is [muy importante] and get three points and then focus on the next game and get three points again because I think to win these three games, we’ll be there.”

For more coverage, follow the Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer


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