Orlando City hired a new coach but he won’t be around when a desperate group attempts to snap a seven-game losing streak with a visit to Atlanta on Saturday for a showdown with the first-place United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Lions announced Friday afternoon that they have hired James O’Connor as their new coach, two weeks after parting ways with Jason Kries. O’Connor is currently coach of Louisville City FC in the United Soccer League.
O’Connor will join Orlando City after the weekend. Assistant Bobby Murphy will coach the Lions against Atlanta on Saturday.
“James was our top target going into the coaching search. He has proven himself a consistent winner as both a player and coach at the USL level, and now is extremely eager to prove himself in MLS,”
Lions general manager Niki Budalic told the team’s website. “James is very aware of the winning culture we have built in Orlando and what it will take to uphold that tradition in both the short and long-term. We couldn’t be more excited for him to get started.”
The Lions (6-9-1, 19 points) have never defeated in Atlanta in four previous tries, including a 2-1 loss at home to the Five Stripes in mid-May that kicked off the seven-game losing streak, which ultimately cost Kreis his job.
Atlanta (10-3-4, 34 points) is unbeaten in its last five matches and has the most points in MLS. The Five Stripes will be without starting midfielder Darlington Nagbe for two to three months. Nagbe, who was acquired from the Portland Timbers in the offseason, suffered an adductor injury in United’s 1-1 draw against Portland, his former team, last weekend.
“Guys are going to have to step up,” Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I’m sure they will. We have to keep things going. Other teams won’t feel bad for us because we’ve lost a key guy. It is a big loss for the team. He’s an important part of our success this year. He’s been fantastic.”
Orlando City will be without winger Justin Meram against Atlanta. Meram was excused for three days for personal reasons, the club announced Friday morning.
—Field Level Media