SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City coach James O’Connor said his team is off to a “decent enough” start, but the Lions are still looking for some consistency.
Orlando City (3-3-2, 11 points) is coming off a 1-0 home win over the Vancouver Whitecaps and faces New York City FC at 1 p.m. Saturday in Yankee Stadium. So far, every Orlando City win this season has been followed by a loss.
In fact, since O’Connor took over last season, the Lions haven’t been able to string together back-to-back wins in league play.
“We want to try to garner some momentum,” O’Connor said. “We feel, throughout the course of the season, performances have been at a good level. We’ve had a couple of, maybe, blips where we’ve thought, ‘OK, that needs to be better,’ but overall I think we’ve been really pleased with the level of performance.”
The Lions are 1-1-1 (4 points) on the road this season. Orlando City faced NYCFC to open the season and came back from a 2-0 deficit to salvage a 2-2 draw.
NYCFC (1-1-5, 8 points) got its first win of the season on Sunday, dropping Eastern Conference leader D.C. United 2-0 on the road.
Saturday’s match is the first in a series of tests for the Lions. It’s the last game before the calendar turns to May, the time of year during which the Lions usually falter. After NYCFC, the Lions face Toronto FC, Atlanta United and the Seattle Sounders. Two of those teams have winning records as of Tuesday and the other is the reigning MLS Cup champion.
“It’s just about getting these performances and getting on a roll and trying to get in a rhythm,” said veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan.
Saturday’s match was Orlando City’s second shutout of the season. The Lions kept two clean sheets throughout the entire 2018 campaign. The Lions avoided falling behind early, something that has plagued the team throughout the early part of the season. City has given up at least one goal in the first 15 minutes of four of its eight matches of 2019.
“I think shutouts will be very important for us, for us to keep things tight,” Kljestan said. “We talked [Saturday] about not really giving anything away in the first 10, 15 minutes and not really trying to win the game in the first 10 or 15 minutes and not really opening ourselves up. I think in that way we stuck to the plan and did a pretty good job of that because we’ve going down 1-0, 2-0 in way too many games already this season.”
Against the Montreal Impact, the Lions gave up two goals inside of 15 minutes. Real Salt Lake got its first goal against Orlando City in the 17th minute.
“We talk about, the harder we can make it for teams to score, the more shutouts we can have, I think the more opportunities we’ll have on the field,” said goalkeeper Brian Rowe.
Centerback Alex De John (hamstring) was training to the side on Tuesday.
Centerback/defensive midfielder Carlos Ascues (hamstring) participated in warmups with the rest of the team during the portion of training open to the media.