SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City coach James O’Connor has been encouraged by what he’s seen from the Lions, despite a recent poor run of form.
The Lions (4-7-3, 15 points) have lost four of their last five matches. Three of those losses were by one goal. After a lackluster performance against Toronto FC to open May, the Lions were able to generate chances in their losses, most recently in a 1-0 home loss to the LA Galaxy where the stats were heavily skewed in City’s favor.
O’Connor has the performances he wants from the team, just not the points. And he knows if players go too long without results, frustration can set in. Saturday represents Orlando City’s last opportunity to grab points before the June international break. The Lions take on the Montreal Impact at 5 p.m. at Stade Saputo.
“I think when you have worked as hard as you have without the reward, frustration can come into it and then, I think, the blame game can come into it,” O’Connor said. “Certainly, from a leadership standpoint, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page. We’re all trying to do the things that we’ve spoken about and keep believing and keep the faith that it’ll come.
“If we have that level of performance over the course of the season, you’re going to win 90 percent of your games.”
O’Connor said the Impact are a “very organized” side. The Impact have scored 19 goals – so have the Lions – in league play so far this season. They’ve also conceded 24 goals, third-worst in the Eastern Conference.
“I think when you look at the quality of the play, I think it’s been great,” O’Connor said about the Lions. “So it’s just that final piece. We’re desperate to make sure that we go and get the reward. I think we’re working really hard. We’re giving ourselves the opportunities to go and get the three points. Then we just need to be a lot more clinical and go and grasp those opportunities.”
Forward Tesho Akindele said the Lions’ problems with finishing chances stem from “a little bit of unluckiness” and “a little bit of a lack of focus in critical moments.”
Both issues are easily fixed, he said.
Plus, Orlando City recently saw proof that things can work just fine when they’re finishing the chances they create. Akindele pointed to the Lions’ 5-1 thrashing of FC Cincinnati and said frustration hasn’t set in for the team yet.
“I would say the Cincinnati game kind of … maybe there would have been frustration building, but that kind of diffused the frustration,” he said. “We were feeling good, so I think that gave us a little bit of a buffer on the frustration.”
The Impact defeated the Lions 3-1 earlier in the season. Orlando City gave up two goals less than a minute apart early in the match and didn’t manage to score until the Impact already had put the match away with a third goal.
Montreal scored all of its goals off Orlando City mistakes. Akindele said the club took one big lesson from its first match against the Impact.
“I think just don’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” he said. “I think the first game we made some big mistakes that just kind of gave the game to them or, at least, put them in a good position. I think we want to make sure we do not do that again and that we at least come out and hold them to halftime and hopefully go for it hard in the second half.”
The Impact (7-6-3, 24 points) are coming off a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake. Montreal will be without star Ignacio Piatti, who suffered a right knee injury during the win over RSL and will miss eight to 12 weeks, according to the club.
“When you look at Montreal, they’ve got players who can create and score goals,” O’Connor said. “They’ve got tremendous work ethic. I think, defensively, when you look at their players, there’s a strong appetite to defend and then to be able to go and cause problems.”
Orlando City at Montreal Impact, 5
Where: Stade Saputo
Watch: WRBW-My65, Youtube TV (Orlando only), ESPN+
The Buzz: Orlando City is coming of a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy where the Lions took 19 shots, seven of which were on target. … Missed chances were the bane of the month of May for the Lions, who went 1-4-0 (3 points) during the month. … Orlando City is led by star designated player Nani, who leads the team in goals (7) and assists (4). … Striker Dom Dwyer is expected to play after missing the Lions’ last match with a suspension due to yellow-card accumulation. … Centerback/defensive midfielder is questionable for the match with a quad injury. … Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti will miss the match with a right knee injury. Forward Orji Okwonkwo (leg injury) is also out. … Saphir Taïder leads the Impact with five goals. … Orlando City faced the Impact earlier in the season and fell 3-1 at Orlando City Stadium.