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Orlando City captain Jonathan Spector frustrated by injury-riddled season

Orlando City defender Jonathan Spector (2) kicks under Atlanta United defender Jeff Larentowicz (18) during the first half at Orlando City Stadium. (Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports)

SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City captain Jonathan Spector’s season hasn’t gone anything like he expected.

The 32-year-old centerback hasn’t been able to string together more than three consecutive full 90-minute performances since the start of the season. He battled concussions to start the season and – four matches after he returned to the match-day 18 following nine missed games – he suffered a hamstring injury.

Injuries, coupled with the fact Orlando City sits in last place in the Eastern Conference after securing just four of 48 possible points since a six-match win streak near the start of the season, have left Spector frustrated.

“I think, as a player, the worst part of being a professional athlete is injuries and not being able to do what you love,” Spector said. “For me, that’s been really frustrating, not being able to help the time when I potentially could have in some difficult moments.

“It’s been hard. It’s been frustrating and I’ve been disappointed, as well, with where we’re at in the table because we know we’re much better than where we stand at the moment.”

Spector on Saturday played 90 minutes for the first time since June 30. Spector said he was happy to be playing in front of the fans in Orlando City Stadium despite Orlando City’s 2-1 loss to rival Atlanta United. He’s appeared in just nine of Orlando City’s 25 matches this season. 

“I’m sure he’s very, very tired,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said after the match.

“He managed to start training toward the middle of last week, toward the end of last week. He was able to come in. I think you could see he started to tire second half. When you look at most of the team, I think we started to tire in the second half as well. It wasn’t just Specs.

“For him, it was important that he got the 90 minutes under his belt having been out for so long with the injury.”

Orlando City’s back line has been shuffled nearly all season. At right back, an injury to Scott Sutter forced RJ Allen to step in. Then Allen got hurt and Will Johnson was the club’s starting right back for a bit.

The centerback problems for Orlando City have been many. Spector was injured. Lamine Sané hasn’t played since June 30 due to a quad injury. Amro Tarek was called up to Egypt’s men’s national team. Chris Schuler, at one point, played with a broken arm. Allen and typical midfielder Tony Rocha had to step in at centerback. Shane O’Neill was brought in as a summer acquisition, but even he missed a game due to a red-card suspension.

And at left back, the club has dealt with inconsistency. Mohamed El-Munir has shown flashes, but O’Connor has used him more as an attacking player. Rocha, Donny Toia and PC have all taken turns at the position with varying levels of success.

“There’s a lot of factors,” Spector said when asked what’s gone wrong with Orlando City this season. “It’s difficult to pinpoint just one. You can point to, certainly, a lot of injuries, that we’ve suffered throughout the season. When you’re constantly having to change the team, you don’t build that continuity.

“We signed a lot of new players this season. There was a big transition in terms of that. And then when you add the injuries on top of that, you’re not able to build the consistency and the continuity within the team so it becomes very difficult.”

With nine matches left, including this weekend’s home game against the Philadelphia Union, Spector said the club is looking to refocus. Orlando City is in last place and is 10 points outside of sixth place and a potential playoff spot.

“I think the guys know we’ve got good players and we’re a good team,” Spector said. “But, certainly, when you’re not getting results, it’s hard to have that belief. You’ve kind of get to just refocus on what we’ve been good at, what’s brought us success and try to maintain that belief.”

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