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Orlando City GM Niki Budalić: We feel optimistic that we will get this right

Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic pictured during a press conference at the stadium introducing the team's new coach James O'Connor on Monday, July 2nd, 2018.

The window for Orlando City to bolster its squad this season closes soon.

The secondary transfer window ends Aug. 8. As of Wednesday morning, centerback Shane O’Neill is the only new player that’s been brought in for the Lions.

Orlando City GM Niki Budalić said he’s always looking to improve the squad. He added new coach James O’Connor has identified areas that need to be improved.

“With bringing in a new technical staff midseason, we wanted to afford [O’Connor] the opportunity to kind of assess the current squad and identify areas where we could improve, whether that’s inside the league or abroad,” Budalić in a phone interview with Pro Soccer USA. “We’re working through that right now, we’ll see if something happens.”

Budalić didn’t say specifically where the club was looking to improve. O’Connor on Saturday said there’s been internal dialogue regarding new players and positions of need for the club.

“A couple of areas where we feel like we need to reinforce, but overall, we feel like we can get more out of the group we have right now,” Budalić said. “It’s just a matter of complementing what we have.”

A recent topic of conversation has been winger Justin Meram. The embattled former Columbus Crew star has been the subject of fan criticism and, more recently, trade reports.

“We’re having a lot of conversations inside the league,” Budalić said. “It’s the same for a lot of our squad where there’s a lot of talk, but not necessarily something that’s imminent.”

Meram returned to training Wednesday after missing all of Orlando City’s training sessions last week. He hasn’t been in the club’s match-day 18 since its July 7 loss to LAFC.  Former MLS and U.S. men’s national team forward Eddie Johnson posted a video on Instagram last week showing him training with Meram at Free Kick Orlando.

Budalić said Meram missing training was an “internal matter that we wanted to deal with.”

Of course, Budalić has to worry about more than just one player. He also gave O’Connor a vote of confidence.

“Coming in mid-season is never ideal,” he said. “The fact that we were not only coming mid-season, but also into a very difficult stretch of games where it’s tough to get into a training rhythm. It makes it that much more difficult to be able to impose his ideas and philosophy and tactics.

“Overall, yes, we all have a confidence in this group. We feel like we can get more out of this group.”

Budalić also spoke directly to fans who have expressed displeasure with the front office. Orlando City hasn’t made the playoffs as an MLS club yet and although there is still hope for the Lions (7-14-1, 22 points) to get above the red line this season, the club has lost 12 of its last 13 matches.

“We understand that we work in professional sports, so results are the primary factor when we’re assessing performance,” Budalić said. “I think we all feel the need to prove ourselves, to be accountable and are working very hard to make that happen.

“The only thing I can say is to have faith in our work and what we’ve tried to accomplish up until this point and we feel optimistic that we will get this right.”

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