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Orlando City coach James O’Connor focused on next game, anticipates transfer window talks

Orlando City coach James O'Connor acknowldedges fans during action against the New York City Football Club in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, July 26, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando City coach James O’Connor has a lot on his plate.

First, he’s trying to turn around Orlando City’s season. He’s 1-3 in league play so far as the leader of the Lions after being hired the middle of the season, despite some solid performances from his club. The season isn’t over yet and Orlando City still has a realistic shot at the playoffs, but the team needs to string some wins together soon.

Orlando City (7-13-1, 22 points) takes on the L.A. Galaxy on the road on Sunday. It’s a quick turnaround for the Lions, who just lost to NYCFC on Thursday and hopped on a plane Friday. After that, the club has a critical match against the New England Revolution (currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference) and then plays D.C. United.

O’Connor has maintained his “one match at a time” mentality, but acknowledged this upcoming stretch is an “important period” for an Orlando City side that entered the season with lofty expectations.  

“You look at the other night and we were really unfortunate not to score,” he said. “I think, in the performances, I think you can definitely see there’s been a confidence there. Now it’s just taking that and utilizing it to get the result that we want.

“I think we’ve said many times, they’re all important games, for sure.  I think we never look past the next game. I think, for us, when we look at the L.A. Galaxy we want to make sure that we’ve got the players recovered, that we’re rested and that we’re prepared as best as we possibly can [be] for that particular game.

“I think that’s the biggest thing for us. We want to look at that and make sure we’re all focused on that. After that, we focus on the next game and not look too far ahead.”

He also needs to keep his eyes on the future of the club. The secondary transfer window opened more than two weeks ago. Left winger Justin Meram hasn’t been around the club recently amid trade reports, and O’Connor said he’s had conversations regarding bolstering the squad.

Orlando City’s defensive depth has been tested all season. Centerback Shane O’Neill was brought in before O’Connor was hired to give the club another option at centerback after injuries have prevented Lamine Sané and Jonathan Spector from playing.

“There’s been some initial dialogue around that,” O’Connor said about potentially bringing in new players. “That’s something that, I think, when we get back next week we can have some further discussions around that. There’s certainly been some discussions around certain positions and maybe potential players.

“There’s been some interest in our players, as well.”

O’Connor said identifying positions of need is tough when players like Sané, Spector and right back Scott Sutter have been injured. He said he wants to give players opportunities to succeed.

“We’ve had some really good discussions around the squad and obviously with [GM] Niki [Budalic] as well.”

Meram, who was acquired from the Columbus Crew exchange for $750,000 of Targeted Allocation Money, $300,000 of General Allocation Money and a 2019 international roster spot, hasn’t played since Orlando City’s 4-1 loss to LAFC on July 7.

“From my standpoint, he’s one player that’s on the squad that is garnering a lot of attention,” O’Connor said of Meram.

“For us, I certainly want to spend my time focusing on the players that are working really hard and are giving their absolute maximum for Orlando City in games. My focus and attention are on the ones that are doing that for Orlando City. That’s the biggest thing for me with that.”

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