July 6, 2018 / 5:37 PM / 4 months ago

Orlando heads to L.A. for first game under O'Connor

Orlando City SC has not even played its first match under new head coach James O’Connor and already there are changes.

Sure O’Connor hopes to bring a new attitude to the struggling Orlando City side, but first things first: Saturday’s match at Los Angeles FC has a new start time.

With excessive heat forecast in Southern California, a new match time of 11 p.m. EST has been scheduled for Saturday, instead of the original afternoon match. Temperatures are expected to reach triple digits throughout the region.

O’Connor is not afraid of the heat, literal or otherwise. The former Orlando City SC player has verbalized the intention to get the most out of a side that has dropped eight consecutive MLS matches and has not scored a goal in the last three.

“I think what we need to do is to really narrow our focus,” O’Connor said at his introductory press conference this week. “There needs to be short-term focus and that needs to be on L.A. this weekend, and everything needs to be geared toward training and making sure we are prepared as best as we possibly can for L.A. If we can keep getting the short term right, that’ll look after the long term.”

It is a recipe LAFC has used to success under head coach Bob Bradley. Third in the Western Conference with 31 points, LAFC has not lost a match since June 2 at FC Dallas, although surrendering two stoppage-time goals at Houston in a 2-2 tie Tuesday has Bradley’s squad seething.

Bradley still sees positives heading into Saturday’s match, with the biggest reason for optimism being forward Adama Diomande, who was voted MLS player of the month for June.

Acquired from Hull City in England, Diomande made his MLS debut as a substitute on May 26 and had his first start June 9. He scored goals in all four of his MLS matches in June, including a three-goal performance against Philadelphia on June 30.

LAFC is awaiting availability of World Cup participant Carlos Vela.

“We continue to get better in so many ways,” Bradley said.

Orlando City is expected to be without goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar (Ewing’s sarcoma), while midfielder Cristian Higuita (adductor) is day-to-day. Injuries for LAFC include goalkeepers Luis Lopez (tibia) and Quillan Roberts (fibula) and midfielders Eduard Atuesta (ankle) and Omar Gaber (thigh), who are all out. Forwards Diego Rossi (hamstring) and Latif Blessing (undisclosed) are questionable.

—Field Level Media

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