Saturday 22 September 2018

James O'Connor takes the reins at Orlando City


James O'Connor will realise his MLS management dream on Saturday as he makes his debut in the dugout for Orlando City.

The Bray native had two more years to run on his contract with Louisville City but he bested half a dozen other candidates to land the manager's post at the club third from bottom in the Eastern Conference of the MLS.

Ex-Stoke City, West Brom and Sheffield Wednesday star O'Connor will make his bow in California against Los Angeles FC and he is hoping to change the fortunes of the Florida club who, despite earning only 19 points in 17 matches, are only four points off a play-off spot.

'I think you have to embrace every challenge,' O'Connor remarked during his introductory press conference on Monday at Orlando City Stadium.

'I think anybody who knows me knows that I'm very hungry and I'm determined to get success. I think 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 genuinely really excited.'

Orlando City General Manager, Niki Budalic, was quick to dismiss any talk of the 38-year-old being a stop-gap and explains that the club see O'Connor, who signed a deal until 2020, as the man to lead the club into the future.

'This is not a situation where we feel like he needs to prove himself in six months,' Budalic told Pro Soccer USA. 'This is a move that we feel that he can turn around this group in the short term, but also a good fit long term based on [his] identity and philosophy.'

Although not flooded with household names, former Manchester United and West Ham United player Jonathan Spector is probably the best known, O'Connor is excited by the talent at his disposal and particularly 27-year-old striker Dom Dwyer.

'This club has been brought up on attacking football,' O'Connor said. 'That's the biggest thing, and it's used to winning. Certainly, in my time here, it's always had a winning culture. I think, obviously, the transition to MLS, there's 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 in the attack, we want to score goals.

'But, equally, we want to keep clean sheets and we want to win games.

'It's trying to make sure there's understanding of defence in transition and what that entails and making sure the roles and responsibilities are laid out and that people can get a good understanding."

Despite the fact that his two predecessors, Adrian Heath and Jason Kreis, both failed to stay at the club for more than one full season, O'Connor is not going to lose any job security any time soon.

'I can try to control the quality of training," he said. "I can try to control the level of preparation. They're areas I spend a lot of time focusing on.

'If I can get that right, get the short term right, then the long term will look after itself.'

Wicklow People