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Orlando City turns focus to attacking, defensive principles during second week of preseason camp

Orlando City SC head coach James O'Connor is shifting his focus from conditioning to tactics during the second week of preseason training. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

BRADENTON, Fla. — Orlando City is shifting its focus after a week of preseason conditioning at IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Head coach James O’Connor said his team is working on implementing the principles that will dictate tactics once the Lions step on the pitch. Last season, O’Connor lamented different facets of the team’s play. Sometimes it was the lack of movement without the ball, other times it was the spacing along the back line.

“We’ve spent the majority of our time doing conditioning work,” O’Connor said on Wednesday. “Now we start to work on, toward the end of the week, attacking and defending principles, which will take a little bit of time to implement.

“Attacking and defending principles, I think the tactics are sort of from that. Whether it’s four in the back, three in the back, whether it’s three in the midfield or four, whether you’ve got two strikers or one and one underneath – I think that all comes from the principles.”

Orlando City’s first closed-door scrimmage against MLS competition is at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday. The Lions will take on the New York Red Bulls – who also are training at IMG – and O’Connor is already looking at ways to manage his players’ minutes.

“I think way that we’ll go is we’re probably looking at loads of, maybe, 45 minutes each,” O’Connor said. “Managing the load for each player. Again, for us, it’s just following a process. I think we’ve been really encouraged by the attitude of the players. I think they’ve worked very, very heard. We’re very encouraged by what we’ve seen so far.”

In a perfect world, Orlando City will be able use multiple formations, O’Connor said.

Toward the end of last season, Orlando City’s shape was more about getting the best 11 players on the pitch. Players roamed where they were needed, and at one point, Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin noted the Lions gave the Union problems because they weren’t “necessarily in any shape.”  

“Attacking and defensive principles and then, given the opponent, maybe you tweak the formation,” O’Connor said. “Trying to establish understanding of principles and what we’re looking for and then getting the players to understand the timing, the movement, the small detail that gets associated with those principles becomes really, really important.”

“Multiple formations. I think that’s probably the best way. I think it’s important that you have an understanding of what you want but that you can make in-game changes and [it’s] seamless, which is very easy to say, but when you’re trying to get the level that we’re trying to get to, the understanding becomes really, really important.”

O’Connor said after a week and a half of preseason conditioning, the team has not faced any major injury issues.

The Lions are still in the process of getting young designated player Josué Colmán (who is working on getting his green card) back to Bradenton. Orlando City is also waiting on the arrival of Brazilian right back Ruan.

“I think everyone is where we need them to be,” he said. “There’s a couple of guys that we’re waiting on as regards to the visas and the green card, trying to get them back. But they’ve been working away where they are. We’ll obviously have to manage that once they come back into the group, then maybe try to get their load up where the others’ is.”

Open Cup format finalized

The format and schedule of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has been finalized. The tournament begins May 7 and 8, though Orlando City won’t join the tournament until the Fourth Round, which begins June 12.

This year’s Open Cup will feature 52 professional teams, which, according to U.S. Soccer, is a modern era (1995-present) record.

The winner of the Open Cup receives $300,000 in prize money and a spot in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League. Orlando City B, as a USL League One side that is majority-owned by a higher division club, is not allowed to play in the tournament.

Orlando City fell in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament to the Philadelphia Union. 

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