ORLANDO, Fla.—For James O’Connor, only one thing truly mattered when it came to turning around Orlando City SC’s misfortunes:
“[The win] was something that was really important. The style? … there were some lovely passages that we can be pleased with. I think there are areas where we want to be better at, but I think there’s a hunger and desire from the players to want to play.”
O’Connor deployed a bold lineup entering Saturday’s matchup against a struggling Toronto FC. Playmaking winger Justin Meram was left out of the 18-man roster, midfielder Tony Rocha surprisingly made a start and starting goalkeeper Joe Bendik was replaced by Earl Edwards Jr.
Edwards, who finished with four saves, didn’t find out he was starting until he arrived at the stadium.
“Although I wasn’t 100 percent certain I was starting until that point, I was prepared to and came into it, thinking I was going to and trying to prepare the best as possible,” Edwards said. “I’m just happy to get the start.”
O’Connor said Bendik took the news about as well as could be expected.
“I thought Joe’s reaction was what you expect… he was very professional,” said O’Connor. “He’s come under a lot of pressure because he’s such a great individual, I think he’s put himself under a lot of pressure, so I want to try and help Joe… but I think when you look at Earl, we got a quality goalkeeper as well, so we’re fortunate enough to have two excellent goalkeepers.”
As for Meram, O’Connor explained that leaving him out of the gameday selection was mostly a depth move as the Lions prepare for a midweek U.S. Open Cup matchup against the Philadelphia Union (7pm ET | USsoccer.com) and league play the following Saturday on the road against Columbus Crew SC.
“We got loads of games, it wasn’t just Justin,” O'Connor said. “When you look at the amount of players that we have, we have a game on Wednesday, a game on Saturday. We go on Thursday and Sunday, loads of games coming up. For all the players, I’m sure everyone is going to get some games.”