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New Orlando City coach James O’Connor brings ‘black-and-white’ mentality to training

 

SANFORD, Fla. — New Orlando City coach James O’Connor has no interest in telling his players what they want to hear.

The club – at all times – will get the truth from him. It won’t always be pleasant with the Lions mired in a nine-match MLS losing streak, but he promises it’ll be honest.

Orlando City’s players have gotten a small taste of O’Connor’s communication style since the coach officially started last week. O’Connor said most of his time has been spent trying to develop relationships with the players.

He’s also trying to get them used to the level of intensity he likes to operate at.

“It’s all relationships,” O’Connor said. “I think the players need to understand that my intentions are always very good. Even though I’ll tell you genuinely straight, it’ll be coming from a place of good will and a kind heart.”

A few players have already commented on O’Connor’s “tell-it-like-it-is” style.

“It’s black and white with him,” right back RJ Allen said. “That’s what I respect a lot about [him]. If you can’t get the job done for him, then somebody else will.”

Allen added the club needs a mentality like O’Connor’s at this point in the season. The Lions (6-11-1, 19 points) take on Toronto FC (4-10-4, 16 points) at 8 p.m. Saturday at Orlando City Stadium.

Even the club’s younger players appreciate O’Connor’s approach.

“It’s much appreciated,” rookie Chris Mueller said. “You want to improve in all ways and coaches need to be honest with you if you’re going to reach your full potential.”

Speaking to reporters before Wednesday’s training session, O’Connor expressed a desire to win now. 

“Ultimately, we all want the same thing, whether it’s the players, myself, the owners, the coaching staff – we all want to win,” O’Connor said. “If something’s happened, I’m not going to try to deceive. I’m just going to [tell] everybody straight. I’m a genuine person. I like to be very honest. There’s no beating around the bush.

“We have expectations for ourselves, first and foremost obviously. Then for the players. I think the supporters, obviously, want to win. They’re frustrated. The players are frustrated. We’re frustrated. It’s just making now that we channel that frustration the right way and control what we can control.”

O’Connor has said he’s trying to change the club’s mentality with confidence at a low. Orlando City isn’t out of the playoff picture yet, but time is running out with 16 games left in the season.

“Confidence has obviously been hit, I think,” O’Connor said. “When you’re on a run like that, it’s the biggest thing. I doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that.

“I think there needs to be an understanding of, as a group, what we’re trying to do. What we want to implement. I think quite often in life, you need to push through things. That’s something we want to try to do. Make sure the mentality is of not acceptance, but that we’re going to keep going and keep pushing until we get what we want.”

That’s not going to happen overnight, O’Connor said. He added the club’s mentality will play a key role in shaking the current slump.

“You’re not going to be able to just bring in a magic wand and touch somebody and change their mentality, but I think we need to speak about, you need to impress upon the importance of culture and make sure there’s an understanding of where we’re trying to get to and what we’re willing to accept,” he said.

Player updates

Centerback Lamine Sané (quad) was not present for Wednesday’s training session.

Centerback and captain Jonathan Spector (hamstring) was present, but he did not participate. He walked slowly to the tents available near the training pitch and observed during the portion of training that was open to the media.

O’Connor said he’s still awaiting timeline updates regarding Sané’s and Spector’s injuries.

Right back Scott Sutter (adductor) trained to the side.

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