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Orlando City coach James O’Connor: Individual conversations with players start this week

Orlando City midfielder Sacha Kljestan (16) heads a high ball over New York Red Bulls defender Michael Murillo (62) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

HARRISON, N.J. — Orlando City could be in for another offseason rebuild.

Coach James O’Connor – who has exactly a half of a season at the helm of the Lions under his belt – said he’ll meet with individual players this week regarding what’s next for the team.

“We’ve got a clear plan of what needs to happen,” O’Connor said. “This week, we’ll start to speak to people and we’ll go from there.”

O’Connor went 2-12-3 (9 points) as Orlando City’s head coach after being hired midseason, including a 1-0 loss in the team’s season finale on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.

“Look, there’s different timelines, I think [regarding] contract options and different variations,” O’Connor said. “I know normally the club will make a statement in regards to players who are staying, players who are leaving. Then obviously, as we start to implement change, that’ll start to come through.

“I think, for us, there’s a process that … there’s MLS guidelines that we’re all aware of and that we’ll follow, and we’ll stick to that protocol.”

Right back Scott Sutter isn’t sure of his future with Orlando City, though he said he’s relieved the season is over. Sutter said confidence is low on the team and that confidence was low even after last week’s 2-1 victory over Columbus Crew SC.

Sutter said he’s not sure how to move on from Orlando City’s dismal season because he doesn’t know what the future holds for him.

“First of all, I don’t know if I’m back next year, so I can’t really answer that, how I move on personally,” Sutter said. “It’s up to the club and I think there will be a lot of moving pieces in the offseason, kind of like last year.

“Obviously I hope to be back. I want to rectify this and do things better next season.”

Sutter also vouched for O’Connor after the Lions’ loss to the Red Bulls.  

“I think any new coach needs time,” he said. “It’s very tough for a coach to come in with a team that’s not necessarily his, not the team that he put together. For sure, it’s going to be difficult and I think that he deserves time.

“I think he and the whole coaching staff worked very well and worked very hard and I think you can see it in their faces after games like this, how bitterly disappointed they are as well. I think they do need a preseason. I think it’s going to be a very tough preseason and I think [O’Connor] will definitely put us on the right track again.”

O’Connor has frequently mentioned character and mentality when talking about the things that need to improve for Orlando City. When asked about the ratio of players who lack the mentality he wants versus the ones who have what he’s looking for, O’Connor was short.

“You’ll find out,” he said.

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