Orlando City SC enters 2018 with a completely rebuilt roster and expectations are higher than ever for the Lions. One of the few players of last season’s campaign to apparently have a secured spot in the starting lineup despite all the new additions is center back Jonathan Spector.
The 31-year-old defender, who is about to start his second season with the club, is excited about the new faces and is confident that the revamped Lions are stronger than the previous squad.
“I think the staff has done a really good job in bringing in the right type of players that we need,” he said during the team’s Media Day on Monday. “I think we are a lot stronger this year than we were last season. We got to have a lot more competition for places, which I think is crucial.”
Competition will indeed be intense and the back line is one of the places where it will definitely be more interesting to watch. Tommy Redding and Rafael Ramos are both gone, but the Lions added right back R.J. Allen, left back Mohamed El-Munir, and center back Amro Tarek to the roster. Another center back is expected to be announced soon and one of the things Spector believes needs to be addressed is avoiding an excessive rotation of pieces, especially on central defense.
“Obviously I know Jose [Aja] well from last season, but certainly there is a difficulty in playing with a different pairing every few games,” he commented. “It doesn’t make anything ideal or easy, but that was what we dealt with last season. Hopefully we can be a little bit more settled this year. I think that will give us a strong base and a good platform to build from.”
With several new faces, the veteran believes that time is the team’s most important asset right now as the newcomers try to integrate with the returning players on and off the field. Getting everyone on the same page is the top priority in preseason.
“Communication is the biggest thing, both on the personal level and on the field,” he said. “Getting to know one another, kind of the nuances, positioning, [and] where they are going to be at a given time.”
As one of the oldest and more experienced players on the team, Spector will have an important leadership role within the roster. Alongside some other veterans such as Sacha Kljestan and Will Johnson, the defender is expected to be one of the most active voices in locker room.
“It’s not a new role, it’s nothing new,” he told the media. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s just something you kind of grow into when you become a veteran. It’s just important about building the culture here, and the right mentality. And getting the guys to understand what it is to be a professional on and off the field and ensuring that we make the most of this opportunity that we have.”