SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City midfielder Dillon Powers holds himself to a high standard, despite getting minimal minutes in purple.
The way he sees it, he’s setting an example for all of the Lions who aren’t seeing many minutes.
“At the very least, I haven’t played much this year, but I feel like I’m contributing to the group in a big way by keeping the standard of the guys who aren’t playing super high,” Powers told Pro Soccer USA. “Always kind of bringing up the bottom, if you will, so that those who are playing do feel like if they do have a bad day I’m right there.”
That standard was on display during the Lions’ road match against the Seattle Sounders. Powers assisted on Orlando City’s only goal of the match, a 2-1 loss, after first forcing a turnover.
“I really would have loved to get a result to justify – I thought we had a decent a performance,” Powers said. “But that was a really fun match to be a part of, to go out there with that group of guys.”
Much of Powers’ time in Central Florida has been spent honing mental sharpness. Powers, who said he’s always been a calm person, meditates. He said that’s helped him not get too attached to the ups and downs that come with being a professional soccer player.
“I started meditating in maybe 2014 or ’15 and I think it’s been a slow application of a lot of different techniques,” he said. “For the most part, I’ve used transcendental meditation, kind of one of the most original forms. I love doing different breath work. Breath of fire, Wim Hof breathing method. Walking meditations.
“I find a lot of joy in it and some of my teammates have done it with me at different times.”
He’s also Orlando City’s “resident vegan.”
“I’ve been doing it for several years now,” Powers said. “At this point, it’s second nature for me. It’s something I really enjoy. I try not to push it on too many people, but the conversation always comes up.”
With a smile, Powers said, “People say vegans are always the one who, like, they want to talk about it. But the problem is everyone wants to ask. That’s how it all starts. Then you get backed into a corner and you’ve got to defend yourself and stuff. I get jokes every day about it, but I’m used to it by now.”
Powers said City coach James O’Connor has been straightforward with him about what he needs to do in order to get more time on match day. The advice has been simple: “Just be better than the people in your position.”
“He’s one that’s really emphasized training habits,” Power said. “I’m super-thankful to him. I think he’s sparked a lot of this growth in me, as far as what I demand of myself. I think it’s really changed my training habits to basically hold myself to a higher standard each day in training.”
O’Connor has constantly said he wants players to earn a spot in the match-day 18 and that he encourages competition for playing time.
“On the whole, I think it’s been a real formative experience for me,” Powers said. “Obviously, I haven’t played as much as I would have liked since I came here, but I think – especially over the last year – has been probably the biggest period of growth in my career, surprisingly. You wouldn’t think that, given I haven’t played too many games.
“As far as how I’ve been able to change my standards, my performances, my mental strength, it’s been a huge period of growth for me. For that standpoint, it’s been great.”
Powers has started in just five league matches since he was acquired in a deadline-day deal in the summer of 2017. During that time, he’s appeared in 10 regular-season matches for the Lions. Orlando City sent the Colorado Rapids midfielder Luis Gil and $100,000 of allocation money in exchange for Powers, the 2013 MLS Rookie of the Year and a regular starter for Colorado.
Powers didn’t start a single match last season. His last start before the Lions’ match against the Sounders was Orlando City’s 2017 regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Union.
“I don’t know when the last time I started a game was,” Powers said while recalling how it felt to start against Seattle this season.
“To be able to apply those high standards I’ve been training, I felt like my transition to the field felt almost seamless, which I was super-happy with. When you’re not playing that much, you have to continue to hold onto something to keep your standards high. To see that kind of be able to mesh into a performance seamlessly was really special.”