James O’Connor has been quite clear in stating his belief that there are certain players on Orlando City SC’s books who are not committed to the team. After recent performances where few, if any, players on the field seemed to be bothered about the result, O’Connor has spoken several times about how he needs to see commitment and motivation on the field. Make no mistake, he is not a satisfied coach at the moment, and he’s made no secret that players who aren’t buying into the culture he wants to build in Orlando won’t be around for very long.
Realistically, some degree of roster turnover can be expected during the off-season. While club management spoke during the summer about how they think the current group of players can win, that clearly hasn’t turned out to be the case. Given the fact that some players are either getting older or simply haven’t lived up to their billing, there were always going to be a few faces walking out the door, but the way the latter half of the season has gone means that the number of those faces has probably increased.
As far as whether any of the players whose commitment is being questioned by O’Connor will play on Sunday, it’s anybody’s guess. He hasn’t given any public indication about which players he’s identified as lacking motivation, but if anybody on that team is trying to prove that they should stay in Orlando this is their last chance.
Last season, an Orlando City squad that was eliminated from playoff contention barely showed up for a 6-1 drubbing at Philadelphia on Decision Day. A similar embarrassing performance at Red Bull Arena on Sunday would surely mean a ticket out of town for some of the current Lions.
There are several names that are probably absolute locks to be here next year shy of the sky falling, like Dom Dwyer, Yoshimar Yotún, Chris Mueller, etc. There are some that most likely have a good chance of coming back, like Will Johnson and Carlos Ascues (if the club exercises its option to extend the loan). And then there are players where you really just don’t know. Players like Jose Villarreal, Dillon Powers, and Richie Laryea have scarcely featured all season long. Whether that’s due to form or if its due to doubts O’Connor has about their character, I can’t say, but if those rarely glimpsed players get a chance Sunday then they need to seize it with both hands.
At the end of the day, there’s no more than a handful of players (in my opinion) who can hold their heads high and honestly say they’ve given 100% in every game they’ve been on the field. That’s the sort of commitment that O’Connor is looking for, and if he doesn’t think he has enough players with that sort of character then he’ll go find players who do.
The season has rapidly drawn to a close and this really is the last chance for players to prove what they’re capable of, and whether or not they’re of value to this team. At the very least, some of them might be playing to get a contract somewhere else, but if that’s going to happen then the effort needs to be much better than it has been for large chunks of this season.