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Orlando City coach James O’Connor praises Gregg Berhalter for his early work leading USMNT

Orlando City coach James O'Connor praised Gregg Berhalter for his early work leading the USMNT. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando City coach James O’Connor watched the U.S. men’s national team train ahead of its match against Ecuador in Orlando City Stadium.

He was joined by executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi and director of scouting Ricardo Moreira. The trio was at Omni ChampionsGate the Tuesday before the USMNT’s 1-0 victory over Ecuador.

Before the U.S. Soccer Federation named Gregg Berhalter the USMNT’s new head coach, O’Connor endorsed Berhalter for the job.

“Gregg is someone who I’ve got great respect for,” O’Connor said. “I was so pleased that he got the job. I think, when you look at how he started in Columbus, obviously, the struggle initially, and then to be able to build a program the way he did, I think he deserved enormous credit. I think he was very deserving to be given the opportunity to be national team coach.

“He’s someone that I have, I would say, real admiration for. His journey, the way he’s handled himself and the way his teams play.”

The U.S. will play the second of two March friendlies on Tuesday against Chile in Houston.

Midfield depth tested

With typical starters Will Johnson (concussion) and Sebas Méndez (international duty) out for Orlando City against the Red Bulls, O’Connor opted to start Uri Rosell and Carlos Ascues alongside Sacha Kljestan in the middle of the pitch on Saturday.

“I think we have pretty good midfielders this year,” Rosell said before Saturday’s match. “I think everybody can bring their own things and it’s been growing so far with the training and the games.”

Saturday’s match marked Rosell’s first appearance of the season. Ascues was lined up as a centerback against the Montreal Impact last week.

“If I have minutes, it’s going to be good,” Rosell said. “In the end, what I want is to help the team, and I think I can bring a lot of value.”

Pride fall to N.C. Courage

The Orlando Pride fell 4-0 to the North Carolina Courage in a preseason friendly at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Julia Spetsmark (89’), Lynn Williams (69’), Jessica McDonald (61’) and Meredith Speck (35’) scored for the Courage. The match was the Pride’s third of the preseason – the first two were closed-door friendlies. One was a game among players on the squad, and the other was against a boys team, according to coach Marc Skinner.

In the days leading up to the North Carolina match, Skinner said he was hoping to see progress from his team.  He said despite the scoreline, he saw quality moments from the Pride.

“I think North Carolina took the chances we gave to them,” Skinner said after the match. “What today was about for me was about finding the best opposition – clearly, from their league status – and seeing how we can find a way around beating them. What we found today was lots and lots of learning experiences.

“Of course, the one thing I’ll never be happy [with] is the result. We want to win the game. But I’m also three weeks into what we’re trying to do. We put things in place today and I was really, really pleased with the girls’ attitude toward doing that.”

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