Orlando City SC named their new head coach on Friday and their choice might just surprise a few people.
The Lions hired James O’Connor, formerly the coach of USL side Louisville City FC, as the replacement for Jason Kreis, who was fired on June 15 amid a lengthy losing streak that still continues under interim boss Bobby Murphy.
O’Connor will coach Louisville City FC through its match on Saturday before joining the Lions in Orlando ahead of their match against LAFC on Saturday, July 7. Lions interim head coach Bobby Murphy will lead the Lions through Saturday’s match at Atlanta United (7 pm ET | ESPN — Full TV & streaming info).
“James was our top target going into the coaching search. He has proven himself a consistent winner as both a player and coach at the USL level, and now is extremely eager to prove himself in MLS,” Lions general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “James is very aware of the winning culture we have built in Orlando and what it will take to uphold that tradition in both the short- and long-term. We couldn’t be more excited for him to get started.”
O’Connor, 38, played for Orlando during their USL era at the tail end of a solid career that included stints with English sides Stoke City, Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday, serving as a player-coach for the Lions in 2013 and 2014.
As Orlando entered MLS in 2015, the Irishman was tasked with leading Louisville, who took over the Lions’ USL slot and served as their affiliate club that year, their debut campaign.
Since then O’Connor has molded Louisville into one of the top teams in the USL, qualifying for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons and winning the league championship last year and amassing an overall record of 56-21-27. This year they’re the sole remaining lower-division side in the U.S. Open Cup, and will meet the Chicago Fire in the quarterfinals next month.
ESPN’s Taylor Twellman reported that former Portland Timbers boss Caleb Porter turned down the Orlando job this week; former Brazil national team coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was also linked to the opening.