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Orlando City captain Jonathan Spector wants to see fight, pride from Lions

Philadelphia Union midfielder Derrick Jones (8) and Orlando City SC defender Jonathan Spector (2) fight for the ball during the second half at Orlando City Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City captain Jonathan Spector doesn’t remember the last time he played left back prior to Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.

Fullback isn’t necessarily his preferred position – until Saturday, Spector had been consistently used as a centerback for the Lions – but it’s a position he’s played and is comfortable with.

Plus, it’s a role coach James O’Connor asked him to play. It’s a role O’Connor felt gave Orlando City the best chance to win, Spector said. So it’s a role he filled.

Union coach Jim Curtin said he thought Orlando City was just trying to get its best XI on the pitch on Saturday in Orlando City Stadium. The match, which ended in a 2-2 draw, featured an Orlando City lineup that included a host of typical defensive midfielders, Spector at left back while two summer signings formed the centerback pairing and Cristian Higuita as an attacking player.

City coach James O’Connor said he was looking for a solution to Orlando City’s leaky defense, but was also looking toward the future. He’s still assessing the players on Orlando City’s roster after being hired midway through the season.

This means Spector moved to the left while Carlos Ascues got his second start of his career with the Lions, this time at centerback.

“The best XI, that’s something we’ve not really had all season,” Spector told Pro Soccer USA before training on Tuesday. “Injuries, suspensions, various things – in terms of what our best XI is, it’s still hard to say because we’ve had so many of those issues.

“I think it’s a formation we felt would give us a good chance of winning the game. I think the first five minutes, we were maybe a little bit slow to start and then, once we kind of built into the game, worked out way into it, I thought we played really well in that first half.”

Orlando City opened the scoring against Philadelphia and generated a few first-half chances, but went into halftime tied at a goal apiece. 

“Second half, I thought, was definitely flat from us,” Spector said. “I think [the Union] maybe changed some things from their point of view and that gave us some trouble. I think to Jim Curtin’s point, our formation throwing them off a little bit… I think that gave us an advantage in that first half. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take a couple more chances that we created.”

Orlando City is near the bottom of the Eastern Conference table with 24 points and a 7-16-3 record. There are eight games left in the regular season for the Lions.

“I think for me, when you come in as a coach midseason I think you need to assess everything,” O’Connor said after the match. he added he’s doing his best to give all of his players a fair look. 

Spector said he didn’t want to speculate regarding O’Connor’s plans for the rest of the season. Whether O’Connor choses to use the remainder of Orlando City’s games as preparation for next season is a question that’s up to the coach, Spector said.

As Orlando City’s captain, Spector said he know what he expects from the team.

“Fight,” he said. “Pride. Just determination to get results. We don’t know where we’ll end up at the end of the season, no one does, but I think we have to have those things in order to give ourselves the best chance of finishing as high as we possibly can and then also using that to build toward next season.”

Spector echoed what right back Scott Sutter said after Saturday’s match — a draw just isn’t good enough. Orlando City has two draws in its last four matches. 

“It’s not what we need right now,” Spector said. “Certainly, we need to pick up points and stop that losing streak that we kind of have been on, but it’s not good enough for what we need and what we want to accomplish. It was a start, but we certainly need more.”

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