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Orlando City GM Niki Budalić says he understands fan frustration, endorses James O’Connor

Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic understands fans' frustration but is confident the Lions are moving in a positive direction. (Charles King/Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando City General Manager Niki Budalić knows there’s criticism surrounding the club’s front office.

And, with the season winding down and the Lions at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, there are bound to be questions moving forward.

Budalić, who is currently leading the charge to find a director of scouting for Orlando City, said he understands why Lions fans might be frustrated, especially in the midst of a stretch of 20 games with just one win.

Still, Budalić said the outside criticism isn’t going to impact what the club does. He’ll be in Dallas for Orlando City’s match at FC Dallas on Saturday. 

“To be perfectly honest, I don’t think we can let criticism from outside the organization affect our decision making and our plans,” he said in a phone interview with Pro Soccer USA.

“Of course, we want to have good relationships with our fans and do everything we can to be connected to the community. That’s very important when you’re establishing a vision and an identity for the club. It needs to all fit together. From that perspective, we’re very conscious of our fans, our community, our sponsors, our front office – everyone. I feel like we’re in this together.

“But as far as decision-making and how we operate, I think it’s really important to stay focused and try to make decisions that we feel are best to move the club forward.”

One thing Budalic is sure of is Orlando City’s head coach. James O’Connor, who was hired midseason and has just one win in 13 matches across all competitions, is the guy for the team moving forward.

“James O’Connor is our guy,” Budalić said. “100 percent.”

Budalić said O’Connor’s leadership has been felt throughout the organization, which is doing its best to implement a vision.

“What I would say is we understand their perspective,” Budalić said about fan frustrations. “We understand the passion they have for this club and this team. We understand the urgency. We understand the demand to improve. I know that James has been a really good leader in trying to establish that demand of expectations. That’s cascading through the organization, as well, in soccer operations.

“We are working hard to change the situation and we feel confident we’ll get it right.”

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