O'Connor embraces challenge of turning around slumping Orlando City SC

ORLANDO, Fla. – A busy offseason pinned Orlando City SC as playoff contenders entering the 2018 MLS season.

But a slow start, followed by a six-game winning streak and then a six game losing streak resulted in the firing of head coach Jason Kreis.

For new coach James O’Connor, the obstacle of turning things around and making the playoffs this season is a challenge he’s willing to take on.

“You have to embrace every challenge,” O’Connor said at an introductory press conference Monday. “Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m very hungry and determined to get success. The biggest thing for me is sitting down with the players, trying to establish a relationship with the players. When I look at the quality of players that are here, I’m generally very excited.”

The task, however, isn’t going to be easy, O’Connor said. The Lions fall from grace doesn’t look like it’s going to get better, especially going up against LAFC (Saturday, 4:30 pm ET | FOX — Full TV & Streaming info), who sits two points from the lead in the Western Conference and is unbeaten in seven home games.

But a turning point for the Lions this season starts at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday, the new Lions boss said.

“It’s like everything in life, you have long-term goals – if you look at the long-term, you get a little bit confused and frightened. It creates an inability to achieve,” O’Connor said. “What we need to do is narrow our focus – a short-term focus and that needs to be on [LAFC] this weekend. Everyone needs to be geared towards training and making sure we’re prepared as best as possibly can. If we can keep getting the short-term right, then we’ll look after the long term.”

A change back the old ways – attack-minded USL days – is something Orlando City might turn to, according to O’Connor. The Lions' 1.41 goals per game is the 16th-highest average in MLS this season and they have been held scoreless in their last three matches.

“This club has been brought up on attacking football, that’s the biggest thing and used to winning,” said O’Connor. “So, in my time here, there was a winning culture. Obviously, [with] the transition to MLS [there] has been a huge desire to continue that. Will it be exciting? Will it be entertaining? That’s how my teams play.”

“We want to be aggressive on how we attack, we want to score goals. But equally, we want to keep clean sheets, we want to win games.”