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Orlando City coach James O’Connor: No drops in intensity in training

Orlando City head coach James O'Connor during the first half against the Atlanta United at Orlando City Stadium. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando City coach James O’Connor won’t tolerate a drop in intensity when it comes to training sessions.

If he senses one, the solution is simple.

“If the intensity starts to drop off in training, we’ll just come back out and train again,” O’Connor said. “There won’t be any of that. The intensity in training is very high. The expectations are the same. We want to win games. That’s been the frustration, is that we haven’t won games.

“I think there’s been games we can point and say we were a little unlucky, but at the end of the day, I’m not into that. I want to win games. Going forward we want to make sure the intensity is right and that we start to capitalize on the big moments in the games and take opportunities and cut out the silly errors.”

Captain and centberack Jonathan Spector there hasn’t been a drop-off regarding the team’s enthusiasm for training.

“In terms of intensity, it can change sometimes,” he said. “Guys are going to be tired from the number of games they’ve played. From the travel schedule. There’s a lot of factors that can influence that. As [O’Connor] said, if he see the levels dropping or we see them dropping, then we do it again and we make sure we get it right.”

The Lions (7-16-2, 23 points) have nine games remaining in the regular season and are long shots – at best – to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.  They are 10 points outside of the sixth place in the East, and only the top six teams reach the postseason.

Orlando City faces the surging Philadelphia Union (11-11-3, 36 points) on Saturday in Orlando City Stadium. 

“The playoff picture is difficult to look at for us right now, certainly, knowing that we have to rely on some other teams,” Spector said. “But all we can do is focus on ourselves. We have to be confidence going into the games and we have to have the belief that we’re going to get something out of it.”

Still, O’Connor, who has been at the helm since former coach Jason Kreis was fired at the end of June, said how well a player trains determines whether that player gets minutes.

O’Connor added he and his assistants are assessing which players, going forward, are going to be a part of they want to do in the future.

In the meantime, O’Connor is evaluating the club’s in-game performances with a critical eye.  

“I think there’s been some elements of performances that we’ve been really pleased with,” he said. “I think there’s been some games where we’ve had factors outside of our control that have played a big factor in games. But I think we need to be a little more consistent in the levels of performance and for longer periods.

“I think when you look at certain aspects, the big moments in games, we’ve had, maybe chances to score and haven’t maybe taken them and the opposition have had and capitalized on their big moments. For us, it’s trying to have a better understanding of consistency and then making sure you capitalize on the big moments of the game.”

Player updates

Central attacking midfielder Sacha Kljestan is still recovering from an ankle injury, but was participating in warmups during the open portion of training on Wednesday.

Defensive midfielder Cristian Higuita suffered an injury in training last week that O’Connor said was an adductor/hip flexor issue. Higuita was training to the side during the open portion of Wednesday’s session.

“We pushed [Higuita] pretty hard last week in training, I think, because obviously he was suspended and I think, either Thursday or Friday, he felt as if his adductor, his hip flexor wasn’t quite right,” he said.

“I think it’s his hip flexor is a little bit sore. I spoke to him again [Wednesday], he feels better. He’s going to do some running this morning. But he hasn’t trained with the team since… it would have been the back end of last week. He’s got a history of adductor injuries; I think it’s his hip flexor this time.”

Both Kljestan and Higuita are day-to-day.

A club spokesperson also confirmed midfielder Cam Lindley is on a “separate training schedule this week.”

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