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Orlando City coach, players determined to get things right

Orlando City winger Mohamed El-Munir (13) kicks the ball in front of Chicago Fire forward Nicolas Hasler (22) during the first half at Toyota Park. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando City’s Mohamed El-Munir knows there wasn’t enough effort during the Lions’ 4-0 loss to the Chicago Fire.

It was arguably the Lions’ worst performance of the season. Orlando City went down a goal in the third minute and never looked competitive before the Fire sent the Lions to the bottom of the Eastern Conference table.

And El-Munir wants to see things turn around soon. The Lions take on the Houston Dynamo at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Orlando City Stadium.

“Any one of my teammates would watch the game, the way we played, the effort, they will know that we really did very bad and this is not who we are,” El-Munir said. “This is not how we play. I think we owe everyone. … The next game, we should do 200 percent better than [against the Fire], for sure. With the result, with performance. I believe everyone on the team is thinking the same way I think.

“Last game, it didn’t matter which formation we played because the effort was bad. That’s the problem. The formation, we played with two different formations in the first half and the second, but the effort wasn’t there so that’s what caused us [to lose] 4-nil.”

El-Munir isn’t the only one who wants to right the ship. New coach James O’Connor has frequently said things are going on behind the scenes to improve Orlando City. He said he’s laying the foundation, and speaking to reporters Wednesday before training, he reaffirmed his commitment to getting things right.

O’Connor was hired after the Lions lost seven consecutive matches – six under former coach Jason Kreis, then an additional match under interim Bobby Murphy.

Things haven’t improved. The Lions – dating back to when Kreis was the coach – have won just once in their past 19 matches and have dropped 11 consecutive road games in league play. Orlando City is in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-18-3 record (24 points) and is on pace to give up a league-record 80 goals.

“I think the best analogy I can give is when you look at us as a club right now, we need to analyze where we are,” O’Connor said. “We need to look at, from a mentality standpoint, from a cultural standpoint, from a technical standpoint – there’s so many layers that go into creating a successful football club.

“We will create something really beautiful here. We know what we’re doing. We need to analyze, we need to process, and then we need to make decisions. There’s a lot that has gone on, but I can promise our supporters and I can promise everyone that we’re going to get things right here.”

With six matches left in the season, El-Munir said he’s determined to get the most out of what remains in a frustrating year for Orlando City.

“I can tell you, it sucks, really,” he said. “As I told you, we have six games. If we’re going to think like, ‘OK, we are last, we’re not going to make it,’ then we can just go home for now. We don’t need to come to training, to make all these people come and work with us and we have to come every day in this weather to work, wake up in the morning. I think since we still wake up and we come to do what we know to do, we’re still going to make it, for sure.

“As a player, it’s difficult. I’m telling you, it’s really hard to find the motivation to go 100 percent, to win. We have to. We don’t have a choice.”

Player updates

O’Connor provided updates on a few players who have been missing lately. 

He said midfielders Cristian Higuita and Richie Laryea and centerback Amro Tarek are all dealing with hamstring injuries, though a club official said before Orlando City’s last match that Higuita was dealing with a calf strain.

Forward Jose Villarreal is dealing with an ankle injury. 

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