Coming off of a much-needed win against the Montreal Impact, Orlando City is looking to capitalize on a break from Major League Soccer play.
“Really important,” Lions coach James O’Connor said of the break before a training session Friday. “I think that’s something we wanted to make sure we try to capitalize on. We’ve given the lads a bit of time off so it’s back into training and focusing.”
The Lions (5-7-3, 18 points) last played on June 1 and don’t take the pitch until the team competes in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup starting June 12.
“It was huge,” Kyle Smith said on the timing of the break. “It’s in the middle of the season, our bodies are getting fatigued. Psychology as well, it’s important to get away sometimes and get time with your family or friends.”
Last time out, Orlando City used a big first half on the road in Montreal defeating the Impact 3-0 entering the break on a “positive note,” according to Chris Mueller.
“I think it was really important for the guys to keep our confidence going and trying to just build some momentum as we have a couple of weeks off,” Mueller said. “It leaves a positive note in our brains as we move forward. It was really vital to get those three points so that was big.”
As of Friday, the Lions sit in eighth place in the MLS table, one spot away from playoff contention. Still, the team does not want to get ahead of itself while on break, according to Mueller.
“We’re just looking forward to taking it day by day,” Mueller said. “Not letting the good performance let us get complacent in any way. We know we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of areas to improve in.”
Orlando City preps for U.S. Open Cup
To start their U.S. Open Cup campaign next week, the Lions travel to face Memphis 901 FC, which is part of the United Soccer League. It’s the first time the Memphis USL club will face an MLS opponent. Although Memphis plays in USL, O’Connor said the Lions will prepare no differently.
“For us, it’s making sure that we’re very professional and we approach Memphis like we did Montreal.” O’Connor said. “Our preparation, our focus, our process, [it] all stays the same.”
Smith, who was called up from the USL in December 2018, says Orlando City needs to take Memphis seriously.
“I would say never take an opponent for granted because even with these lower level teams, they’re quality teams,” Smith said. “We need to come out and we need to perform to the best of our ability.”
The Lions hope to build on their momentum and start a deep Open Cup run before returning to MLS play on June 26 for a matchup at D.C. United.
“It’s the quickest way to a trophy,” Mueller said of the U.S. Open Cup. “We’re focused on it and we want to win it.”
Lions support Pride in World Cup
While on break, the Lions will be watching closely as nine members of the Orlando Pride compete in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which started Friday in Paris.
“It’s awesome because I’ve been watching them play pretty much every World Cup,” Smith said. “To see them now playing with our team as well, it’s awesome for me to see that.”
O’Connor said from an “organizational standpoint,” it’s “fantastic” for the Orlando club.
“It’s great for us to have so many players that are representing our brand at such a high level,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s great so many players can represent Orlando on a world stage.”