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Orlando City’s season doesn’t get reset with hiring of new coach James O’Connor

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan makes a save in front of Orlando City forward Dom Dwyer during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

ORLANDO, Fla. — For Dom Dwyer, the hiring of James O’Connor as Orlando City’s head coach doesn’t represent a reset for the club.

That’s because Orlando City has already played half a season’s worth of matches. The club’s current record – marred by an eight-match MLS losing streak – cannot be ignored.

The Lions (6-10-1, 19 points) are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference table, four points out of sixth place and a playoff berth.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a reset,” Dwyer said. “We’re still where we are on the table. We’ve still got to have that battle. We still need to get some points and get ourselves back into playoff position. We’re focused on one game at a time. We’re focused on LA this weekend and then we’ll work to the next one after that.”

Orlando City takes on LAFC on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. It’s another tough task for the club – LAFC, in its first season as an expansion team, is in third place in the Western Conference table with a 9-4-3 record (30 points).

LAFC also leads the Western Conference with 35 goals scored.

“Everything seems to be stacking against us at the moment,” Dwyer said. “We’re on a poor streak of games. For us, we’re not looking at that. We’re looking at game to game, week to week. We have a big plus right now and we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re just focusing on ourselves as a club. We’re going to work for it and our first focus is trying to beat LA this weekend.”

Orlando City hasn’t won an MLS match since defeating Real Salt Lake on May 6. O’Connor, speaking during his introductory press conference on Monday, said he there were other MLS offers he wouldn’t have left Louisville City for, despite Orlando City’s recent form in league play.

“People don’t really understand just what this club means to me,” he said.

He added, “For me, there’s a desperation to try to bring success here. I look at the opportunity that’s here. I look at how passionate the supporters are. I look at the ownership group. I look at [GM] Niki [Budalic]. I’ve been really impressed with everybody – with Alex [Leitão,] with Flávio [Augusto da Silva].

“For me there’s a determination to try to bring everybody together to really go and get after things here.”

O’Connor’s debut for Orlando City as the club’s coach might not be a reset, but it could represent a turning point.

“It’s brilliant,” Dwyer said. “We’re focused, as a club, on moving forward. I think that James is a fantastic addition for us and something that us as players are very excited about. We’re looking forward to working together. James is someone I’m very fond of. We played together briefly in 2013. He’s brought that same focus and ethic that he brought when he played.”

Yotún returns

Orlando City midfielder Yoshimar Yotún, who hasn’t played for the club since the club’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of Atlanta United in May, returned to training Monday.

Things are different for Orlando City since he last played. Yotún was suspended (yellow card accumulation) for the Lions’ May 18 match against Toronto FC and he missed the next six matches while with Peru’s men’s national team in Russia for the World Cup.

When he left, the Lions were still above the playoff line. 

He said he’s ready to play Saturday.

“I’m never going to be disappointed in this team,” Yotún said through a translator. “We have a great squad. We’re obviously in a bad stretch right now, but earlier in the year, we were in a good stretch and we weren’t the best team in the world. Now we’re in a bad stretch and we’re not the worst team in the world, so I’m never going to be disappointed with this team.”

Player updates

Midfielder Cristian Higuita (day-to-day with an adductor injury) trained to the side on Tuesday. Centerback Lamine Sané, who has dealt with knee issues this season, was not at Tuesday’s training session. Club officials did not provide an update on Sané.

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