SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City is still trying to find ways to win late in the season.
The Lions (7-17-3, 24 points) have one win during their past 18 league matches. The win came under new head coach James O’Connor, who took over the team at the beginning of July. O’Connor has also coached Orlando City to two draws.
O’Connor’s task is huge, and he knows it. He has to look toward next season, too. He’s already spoken about laying the foundation for 2019, about being intentional when looking at players who might be able to be a part of next year’s vision, but he can’t just write off 2018.
“Ultimately, we’re all going to be judged on our performances,” O’Connor said. “Some performances in games, we’ve been pleased. Some performances, there’s been other parts of the game we’re really frustrated with. We all want the same thing: We want to win and we want a successful season.”
Orlando City’s next opponent, the Chicago Fire, is another side trying to find ways to win. The Fire (6-15-6, 24 points) haven’t won a league match since June 30. The two teams play each other at 5 p.m. Sunday at Toyota Park in a match that will be broadcast on FS1.
The Fire beat the Lions 2-1 earlier this season when Jason Kreis was still Orlando City’s head coach.
“They’re in a similar situation to us,” Orlando city right back Scott Sutter said. “They want to get some wins. They want to finish the season in the right way. It will definitely be a battle and I think the team that wants it more and is willing to do more, run more, fight more, I think they will be the team that wins in the end.”
If there’s a loser in Saturday’s match, that side will sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. Despite a rough 18-game stretch after opening the season 6-2-1, the Lions haven’t been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention yet.
“We don’t need much, it feels like,” Sutter said. “I think we’ve been close on many, many occasions in recent weeks. I think we are very close. I think it might take just one… but we’ve been saying that for a few weeks now – it might take this one result, this one stroke of luck, this one VAR decision that goes in our direction that might be the change.
“We desperately need that for confidence, as well. It’s a big difference if you go into the game knowing you’re going to win than hoping to win. We’re just hoping that we can bring our game and get that one win and kind of take it from there.”
O’Connor said he’s looking for a variety of things from his players on match day. He’s given a variety of players looks, sure, and he’s trying to win, but he’s evaluating just about every aspect of his players’ performances.
“There’s a lot,” he said. “Mentality, attitude, character, technical skills, tactical skills – there’s so much. Their training loads, I think people are starting to understand the importance that we place on training. There’s so many difference aspects to it.
“There’s not just one thing. We’re very detail orientated in how we go about things. There’s a lot that we expect from our players. For some guys, it’s trying to get a better understanding of that and then seeing who can cope.”
Technically, Sutter said the Lions spend a lot of time winning the ball back from opposing sides, only to turn it over too easily. He added Orlando City is still looking to minimize mistakes.
“I think we need to take more care of the ball,” he said. “Then, when we do get the chances, we need to take them. I think that has been crucial for other teams in beating us. Out of half-chances, they score a goal. It takes a lot for us to get these goals, sometimes. It’s that, plus the defensive concentration, stability throughout the team.”