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Orlando City coach James O’Connor: Lions’ roster lacks balance

Orlando City will be without both of its strikers this weekend when it takes on the New England Revolution on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

Dom Dwyer and Stéfano Pinho are the two players – on a squad of 30 – who’ve played as strikers for the Lions this season, which head coach James O’Connor said points to a bigger problem.

“I think, when you look at that, there’s maybe bigger things that we need to look at,” O’Connor said. “The balance of the squad needs to be a little bit different, I think, next year where we don’t have two players for such a key position. That presents a different challenge for us as a coaching staff this week.”

Star striker Dom Dwyer (12 goals) is suspended due to yellow card accumulation after he was booked in the seventh minute of the Lions’ 2-0 loss to FC Dallas. O’Connor revealed before training on Wednesday that backup striker Stéfano Pinho (2 goals in league play) is dealing with a quad injury that’ll keep him out at least 10 days.

O’Connor said the injury to Pinho is a bigger issue that he originally thought.

With Dwyer and Pinho out – and with three other players gone for international duty – O’Connor said he’s hoping the players are ready to seize the opportunities to play that will be available.

“Whether they’re younger guys or any guys, I think, when you look at the players that we have available, there’s going to be someone who’s not a striker that’s going to have to play there,” O’Connor said. “That’s what’s going to have to happen. Some of the guys were given some minutes again.

“I think the challenge for us is trying to come up with something that maybe will create a problem for New England, whether it’s pace, whether it’s intelligence, whether it’s forward movement. Again, for us, training becomes really important, looking at who can do what, trying to come up with a solution.”

Orlando City already engaged in a roster rebuild prior to the 2018 season, but the roster was built from the ground up for former coach Jason Kreis, who wanted to play a different style of soccer from what O’Connor likes. Kreis was fired in June after the Lions lost the sixth game of what would eventually balloon into a nine-match losing streak in league play.

“I’ve got a real understanding of what we want,” O’Connor said. “What we’re going to get in the offseason. For us, every coach is different for how they build out their squad. When I look at it, to have two strikers on a squad of 30 players, I don’t think there’s enough balance there. That’s my opinion.

“Next year, it’ll be different. We’ll more balanced. But that’s my opinion.”

Depth has been a consistent issue for Orlando City this season. Centerback Jonathan Spector, who is dealing with a back issue, left Sylvan Lake Park before Wednesday’s training session got started. Midfielder Uri Rosell is recovering from an ankle injury. Young midfielder Pierre Da Silva has a knee injury.

All-star midfielder Yoshi Yotún, centerback Amro Tarek and left back Mohamed El-Munir are the players gone for international duty, and they’re guaranteed to miss the next two matches. Backup left back PC has been dealing with a hamstring injury lately.

Orlando City has three games in the next nine days, including Saturday’s match against the Revolution. After that, the Lions return home to face the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday and then end the stretch with a match against the Columbus Crew on Oct. 21.

O’Connor called the upcoming slate of matches during the international break “far from ideal.”

“Obviously we’re just going to have to manage the games and manage the minutes for the players and try to rotate some players in and give everyone and opportunity to play,” O’Connor said.




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