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Orlando City returns home to face Montreal Impact after five-match road trip

Orlando City has been faced with changes lately, and more are on the horizon as the club searches for its next head coach after the firing of Jason Kreis.  

A formation change marked the Lions’ first match with interim coach Bobby Murphy at the helm. The Lions got past D.C. United in the U.S Open Cup and utilized a three-man back line for the first time this season.

Club CEO Alex Leitão earlier this week told Pro Soccer USA he expects to name a new head coach next week. The new coach will be expected to win now, with Orlando City still above the playoff line as of Friday, though things could change if the Lions (6-8-1, 19 points) fall to Montreal (5-11-0, 15 points) on Saturday.

For centerback Amro Tarek, it doesn’t matter who is coaching the Lions. It’s about the club. And the club is looking to end a free fall in league play with a win during a home match — its first since May 26. 

“I play for Orlando City,” Tarek said. “I don’t play for coaches.”

He added, “It was just three days or two days [with Murphy in charge]. It’s not a big change. We changed the formation, but we are the same players. Bobby is the same person he was with Jason. Now he’s in charge, so he’s the same one. We stuck together, we had a good game and now we have to keep going.”

Murphy said the feedback from the team regarding the 3-4-3 formation was good. It was the first time this season Lamine Sané, Jonathan Spector and Tarek were on the pitch at the same time. 

“It’s not something I went into just on my own,” Murphy said. “I think if you’re going to change things, you have to have buy-in. I’m a big believer of buy-in versus compliance. If it was something they weren’t comfortable with or didn’t feel good in, then it’s not something we would have done. The players were happy and I think it’s always important to have a ‘Plan B.’”

That’s been the mark of Murphy’s short tenure as interim coach, his second overall with the club after previously replacing former coach Adrian Heath before Kreis was hired. For him, it’s about the players.

Tarek said coaching changes are part of soccer. A sad part, of course, but something all players have to deal with.

“It’s normal,” Tarek said. “Every time a new coach comes [in], everyone has to give his best and prove himself. I think this is something good, to have a new energy for all the players. As I said, we all play for Orlando City so I hope we all do our best for this club.”

Plus, Orlando City’s six-match skid in league play wasn’t caused by one man.

“We had some bad conditions, like a lot of injured players,” Tarek said. “We also have to put this in our minds. What happened in the last six games was not just because of Jason. A lot of bad conditions.”

Saturday’s match in Orlando City Stadium represents another chance for the Lions to right the ship. Kreis’ final game as head coach was against Montreal two weeks ago, and Orlando City gets a chance to exact a measure of revenge against the Impact.

A win means holding off the likes of the Chicago Fire (5-7-4, 19 points) and the Philadelphia Union (5-7-3, 18 points), two clubs that could overtake Orlando City in the Eastern Conference table this weekend.

“I think one of the things for a club like Orlando City is there’s inherent pressure,” Murphy said. “You’re relevant in the marketplace, you have a rabid fan base and people expect you to go out and perform and win.

“I’ve told the players before, being in a place like this cut both ways, right? Because you love having the full stadium, you love the support, but with that comes expectation. We have to make sure we’re starting to meet those expectations. I think going into tomorrow night, yeah, the expectation is to go and defend our home field and win a game.”

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