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Busy Weeks Provide James O’Connor a Chance to Test Players

With four matches in 11 days, the new coach will have a valuable opportunity to get familiar with the roster and experiment.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Philadelphia Union Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

When head coaches take over struggling teams during the season, their first concern is obviously righting the ship and that might give them little or no room to experiment with players and tactical variations. That is the case with Orlando City SC’s James O’Connor as the Irishman was hired in the midst of an eight-match losing streak and getting three points on the board was certainly on top of his priorities list — which he did last night.

In the near future, however, O’Connor might be forced to rotate his squad whether he planned for it or not as the Lions are set to play four matches in just 11 days, including three road games, and some changes could be needed from one game to the next.

The Lions’ journey starts on Wednesday, when the team goes to Pennsylvania to face the Philadelphia Union in the U.S. Open Cup’s quarterfinals. Their next stop will be Columbus to face the Crew on Saturday. Orlando then returns home to host New York City FC on Thursday before taking a plane to the West Coast to play the LA Galaxy on Sunday.

Giving players a chance, however, seems to be part of O’Connor’s plans regardless. In a recent interview with, the head coach indicated that this will be a good and fair move, one that would also help him to earn trust form the roster.

“I want to be fair to people, as well,” he said. “I’ve had it myself when a new coach comes in and he doesn’t really look at players. He says he will and then just sort of pushes everyone to the side. We want to be intentional about being very fair. Give people a chance.”

The U.S. Open Cup match against the Union seems to be the most likely occasion to see some new faces popping up in Orlando’s lineup. The tournament is obviously a good opportunity for the team to win a trophy and for the players to have their confidence boosted, but MLS teams traditionally don’t prioritize it until they approach the final, and, with the Lions having to improve to fulfill their playoff aspirations, it’s likely that some starters get rested and don’t make the trip up north.

Starting a new job is never easy and Orlando’s recent form doesn’t make the task in hand any easier, but if O’Connor has good news to celebrate, it’s the fact that he’ll have enough opportunities to make every test he wants to right off the bat.