Orlando City hasn’t had to look far for its newest head coach.
Orlando City SC fans will recognize the name, as the club confirmed today it has hired James O’Connor to be the team’s new head coach. O’Connor played for Orlando City from 2012 through the middle of 2014, when he became head coach for Louisville City – which at the time shared ownership with Orlando City.
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Since 2014, O’Connor has been the architect for everything Louisville City has achieved on the field, and a lot off of it too. O’Connor led Louisville City to the USL Eastern Conference finals three-straight years, finally breaking through in 2017 and watching as Louisville City won the USL title on home ground.
O’Connor also had a big impact in the club securing a soccer-specific stadium at a near-downtown location, including being involved in some discussions over the stadium’s design.
“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,” Orlando City general manager Niki Budalic said in a statement. “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.”
According to reports, O’Connor was a candidate for the Portland Timbers’ gig last offseason, one that eventually went to Giovani Savarese, but it appeared to be only a matter of time for O’Connor before he got his MLS chance.
O’Connor took Louisville City to new heights this season, as the club defeated the New England Revolution in the U.S. Open Cup, securing the club’s first win over MLS competition in a competitive match.
In O’Connor, Orlando City is getting a manager who seems to know all the right buttons to push, and one who will likely quickly win over the hearts of his players. In Louisville, his players adore him and appear to be willing to run through walls for the man.
The big question for Orlando is how much time O’Connor will be given. Jason Kreis lasted less than two years, and only had one full season with the club, while first coach Adrian Heath was also fired midway through his second season.
If O’Connor is given time, as Savarese has been given so far in Portland, we could potentially see results. If O’Connor has a full offseason to bring in new players and freshen up the squad, we could see even more of what O’Connor can do with a bigger budget.