Orlando City’s first Thursday match in Club history is a big one.
When the Lions welcome 2015 expansion rival New York City FC to Orlando City Stadium on Thursday, they will understand the task in front of them.
They understand their opposition. They understand the expectations of their home crowd. Most importantly, they understand how to get it done.
“The biggest thing for us is making sure we’re prepared,” head coach James O’Connor said Tuesday. “[New York City] are having a fantastic season, very strong team. I think we need to reinforce some of the positives we saw in Columbus, try to make sure there’s a good understanding of what we’re trying to do and then there’s a few things we need to be a little bit sharper on.”
One area of improvement that O’Connor has emphasized is the team’s defensive transition, focusing on finding space in key areas on the attack and limiting the space of the opposition. In Columbus, the Lions were successful in taking away space in the midfield.
“I think we had a pretty solid game playing away and playing against a team like Columbus,” midfielder Uri Rosell said. “The way we compacted the game in the middle was hard for them and I think that’s a good start.”
Identifying key areas of space is one of the many positives City can draw on from Saturday’s contest. Within the match, the Lions produced several promising passages of play and many moments to build on for Thursday.
“I think we can all take tremendous confidence from the quality of the goal,” O’Connor said of City’s second goal in Columbus. “Cristian [Higuita] with the great turn into Yoshi [Yotun], great ball to Sacha [Kljestan], then it comes across the face of the goal. It’s a fantastic goal.”
Rosell, Higuita and Yotún all played a key role in creating space in the middle of the pitch for the Lions, while limiting the amount of openings for their opponent.
“We did a great job there, we couldn’t get the result that everybody wanted but at the end overall we’ve got to think we had a pretty good game and we got to be able to do it again here at home.” Rosell said.
The Lions will look to build on Saturday’s performance going into Thursday’s match and their eventual meeting three days later with the LA Galaxy on Sunday. With two games in four days, they certainly have a challenge to prepare for. However, the squad has no doubts that they will be up to the task.
“It’s demanding for sure,” forward Chris Mueller said. “All the guys need to be ready. It’s been like that for quite some time now, just having to give your everything and be prepared for these short turnarounds and this necessity for points and wins. We’re preparing for it and we’ll be ready for sure.”