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Orlando City left back Mohamed El-Munir comfortable with versatile role

Orlando City defender Mohamed El-Munir (13) is defended by Atlanta United defender Franco Escobar (2) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

SANFORD, Fla. — Mohamed El-Munir’s first season with Orlando City has been tough to fully appraise, even for El-Munir.

One on hand, El-Munir has wowed spectators and teammates with his hustle as a left back. He helped Orlando City salvage a season-opening 1-1 draw against D.C. United by chasing down Darren Mattocks in what still holds up as one of Orlando City’s best defensive plays this season.

He matched that play with a spectacular block to help preserve Orlando City’s 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids.

Moments like that have been counterbalanced with occasional defensive lapses, some of which have led to goals.

With that in mind, El-Munir said he’s content to wait until the end of the season to grade himself.

“Our season is going up and down,” El-Munir said. “We were winning, and now we’re struggling with the results. I can say that I’ve had good moments and bad moments. This answer, I can’t give now because it’s still too early.

“I can tell if this season was good or not good at the end of the season. So far, I think we’re doing pretty much good as a team, as a unit. We just need to work on the results.”

El-Munir had a new challenge on Saturday against LAFC. Instead of taking up his usual spot at left back, which was occupied by Donny Toia, El-Munir came on in the 64th minute for winger Chris Mueller. It was the first time this season El-Munir came on as an attacking sub.

“I don’t see a big difference, you know?” El-Munir said. “Especially if I’m going to be on the left side. As a left back, I go more often into the attack. I’ve played in this position before. That’s what I don’t have a problem with it.”

He acquitted himself well on the wing. He worked his way into the penalty area with his usual array of moves and put a shot on target, which LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller saved.

Still, El-Munir has a preference regarding where he plays on the pitch.

“If someone would ask me what I would prefer, I would prefer my position as a left back,” El-Munir said.

He added, “As a left wing or right wing… I played [that position] when I was with Dinamo Minsk for a couple of games in qualification for the Europa League and for the group stage. I don’t have problems playing in this position if the coach or the team’s going to need me in this position.”

El-Munir said there’s been some frustration this season with Orlando City on a nine-match losing skid. The Lions (6-11-1, 19 points) are back in Orlando City Stadium on Saturday for a match against Toronto FC. 

“We’ve lost nine games in a row,” he said. “Any normal person would think this is not something normal and this is something that would make you upset, angry and thinking all the time, trying to see what we have to change so we can fix this. I hope with the new coach, with James [O’Connor], we can figure it out fast.

“We don’t want to lose any more games.”

El-Munir was one of more than a dozen players brought on in the offseason by former head coach Jason Kreis and his staff. He said he’s gone through coaching changes before – twice, in fact – and now he’s trying to make sure his communication with O’Connor is strong.

“He’s an honest man,” El-Munir said. “He’s direct. This is what I like in him. He just will tell you. Some people would not like it, but in this kind of sport or job, it’s always better to be honest and just say how it is. We have good communication, we speak all the time.

“Every coach has different opinions, different things he’s going to as from us as players. In the end, if we just stick as a unit, I think it will not affect us so much. Or it’s going to affect us in a good way.”

Player updates

Centerbacks Lamine Sané (quad) and Jonathan Spector (hamstring) weren’t present for the portion of Monday’s training session that was open to the media. Right back Scott Sutter (adductor) was also absent.

With Sané and Spector out, Orlando City’s depth at centerback is being tested again. New signee Shane O’Neill will be available for selection this weekend for the first time this season.

Cristian Higuita, who has missed time with an adductor injury, trained with the club on Monday. 

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