ORLANDO, Fla. – Following Tuesday’s painful 2-0 loss to Atlanta United at Exploria Stadium, James O’Connor didn't want to talk much about Orlando’s all-time winless record against their neighbors to the north.
Orlando City SC failed to defeat the Five Stripes for the eighth time, but for the Lions boss, that record is not relevant to Tuesday’s loss, which saw Atlanta advance to their first-ever U.S. Open Cup final.
“Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the record,” said O’Connor. “I’ve had to listen to all this crap – excuse the language – but games in June we don’t win a game or games in July we don’t win a game, I’m not interested in that. It’s pure mentality. I haven’t been involved in the other games against Atlanta as a coach or as a club.
“It’s just, people want to make things of, I haven’t won a game previously in July, I haven’t won a game previously in June,” he added. “I’m not interested in any of that because it has no bearing on the game. We were beat tonight because we weren’t good enough.”
For Sacha Kljestan, Tuesday’s game was reminiscent of Orlando’s previous two Open Cup games, which saw the Lions struggle to get a result.
But despite exiting in the semifinal of the historic tournament, Kljestan said Tuesday’s elimination shouldn’t serve as a distraction to the rest of the season, where Orlando are competing for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
“I think we got to draw confidence from that and we have got to know that this cannot derail our season,” said Kljestan. “We cannot let this game linger for weeks, because the next game is huge. We go to Toronto and we are very close with them in the playoff line. So a big game coming up sometimes is a little silver lining, when you get knocked out of the Cup is that you are playing midweek and then a few days later you’ve got to bounce back.
“We can’t let this derail us, we got to be stronger now.”
O’Connor echoed Kljestan following the game. Orlando take on Toronto FC on Saturday at BMO Field (7:30 pm ET | TSN4, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US) before returning home for midweek action against Sporting Kansas City.
“Like I said to the guys, I’m not prepared to sit here and think ‘OK, that’s the end of the season, we’ve got to the semifinal of the Open Cup.’ I think you need to be stronger,” said O’Connor.
“Don’t get me wrong, gutted tonight and you can forget tomorrow. But after that, you need to dial in to Toronto and make sure you’re prepared and ready for that. Because I’m certainly not prepared to accept that’s the end of the season. So we have a massive game against Toronto and we need to come out all guns blazing.”