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New Orlando City assistant coach Sean McAuley hopes to bring consistency to Lions

Orlando City assistant coach Sean McAuley (right) walks to the training ground at Sylvan Lake Park with head coach James O'Connor. (Jordan Culver/Orlando Sentinel)

SANFORD, Fla. — New Orlando City assistant coach Sean McAuley wants to be a part of something that’s never been done before.

He charted a new course when he left English club Sheffield Wednesday for the Portland Timbers in 2012. He wasn’t looking for a new opportunity – he was simply ready to embrace the challenge of what was presented to him.

McAuley is bringing that mentality to Orlando City. The 46-year-old Sheffield, England, native on Monday started in his new role on James O’Connor’s technical staff after being brought over from Portland.  

“The biggest attraction is I want to do something here that we’ve never done before and that’s win the MLS Cup,” McAuley told Pro Soccer USA. “There’s also a stepping stone to that and that’s getting in the playoffs. For us, it was very similar to my challenge at Portland. I left a very good job at Sheffield Wednesday. I was there for seven years.

“I left [Sheffield Wednesday] because the challenge was to do something that [Portland hadn’t] done before. It’s the same here.”

McAuley stuck with Portland through three coaching changes and was a part of the club’s MLS Cup run in 2015. If he has his way, it’ll stick around Orlando City for a while, too.

“I know the direction of where this club wants to go and I see it as a similar project to what I took on in Portland, in terms of they were newish to the league and had not really had any sustained measure of continuity. I went [to Portland] and it was a good time for a long time.

“I’m hoping that I can do the same here and it’s not like, ‘Let’s come to a different club for a couple of years and see how that works out.’ We hope that we can get the momentum going and the results going and create some success. Then, once we get the success, then create the continuity. Once that happens, everybody keeps rolling and everybody enjoys the job.”

Orlando City announced McAuley’s hiring on Aug. 2. McAuley stayed with the Timbers’ staff through one more match — the Timbers beat Philadelphia 3-0 during the weekend — and then he left for Orlando. 

“We are very pleased that Sean has joined us,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said in a news release. “His experience in Major League Soccer, coupled with his existing relationship with James, makes him the ideal candidate to complement our existing staff.” 

McAuley understands the challenge in front of him and isn’t shying away from it. He’s joining a side that’s lost 12 of its past 14 league matches and needs a massive push during its final 11 games to even have a shot at the playoffs this season.

Still, he’s seen some success while watching the Lions. Now he just wants to see consistency.

“The one thing that I would say that needs to be achieved is we need to get in the playoffs,” he said. “We need to start being consistent in the results. You could say through [Orlando City’s] time in MLS, they’ve had some good results but haven’t been consistent enough to make the playoffs.”

Like the other new members of Orlando City’s technical staff, McAuley has a longstanding relationship with O’Connor. The two first met while McAuley was coaching at Sheffield Wednesday and O’Connor was a player there.

“He is very driven and my relationship is based on wanting to win games,” McAuley said. “I would say we’re quite different people, which he likes because it’s a balance for him, but the one thing we have in common is how we see the game being played and the primary goal is to win games.

“When he was a player, he was very competitive and I knew he would go into management because he was preparing for this type of job 10 years ago.”

When asked to elaborate on what makes him so different from O’Connor, McAuley said, “Everybody knows James is intense. Probably people know that through my experience, I’ve’ been able to pick up a way of working and communicating in maybe a more … different way.”

McAuley still needs time to get used to Orlando after almost six seasons in the Pacific Northwest. His wife, Lisa, and his 14-year-old son, Finn, will soon join him in Central Florida. First, he needs a permanent residence and a means of transportation other than O’Connor.

“I know where the training ground is and the road to the hotel,” McAuley said with a laugh.    

In the meantime, Orlando City faces tests.

“You’ve got the challenge to win games,” McAuley said. “That’s the consistency part. I get that challenge, no problem. I’ve been in football now since I left school at 16. I’ve never constantly looked to seek another opportunity. Opportunities just come.

“For me, I’m now thinking to meself, ‘Win the next game.’ Then we need to keep chipping away at winning the next game, winning the next game, winning the next game. Then it’ll take you to a level where you need to make the playoffs. Then to the MLS Cup.”

And after Orlando City wins a title? 

“Then once we win the MLS Cup, the challenge is to win it again,” McAuley said with a smile. “You’re constantly looking at different benchmarks to say you leave a legacy of success.”

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