In his first season in MLS, Mark-Anthony Kaye has been on a steady trajectory upwards. The midfielder has started in all but one match this season and has two goals and three assists to his name since joining LAFC. But when he joined James O’Connor’s Louisville City FC side in 2016, his career was at a crossroads.
“You can say that he helped revitalize my career. I came to him in kind of a desperate situation to learn the game better and become a better player. I owe him a lot,” Kaye said of O’Connor following LAFC training on Thursday.
Kaye joined O’Connor’s team after just one season playing for his hometown team Toronto FC 2. The midfielder had been a part of the TFC organization since 2013 when he signed with Toronto’s academy out of York College, but at Louisville he was in need of a reset.
“I think that coming from Toronto FC, where you can take a lot of things for granted, you can forget how to compete properly,” Kaye said. “So I think with going to Louisville, James really brought my eye to that if you have the right mentality and right approach, good things will come your way. I am kind of a testament of what he’s been doing.”
In his two seasons with Louisville, Kaye was twice a USL regular season runner-up and won a USL Cup in 2017 under O’Connor. In addition to helping him grow as a player, Kaye’s remembers O’Connor as a great person off the pitch as well.
“I think one time in Toronto, he ended up driving my mom and my brothers back home. I was willing to pay the way for them to get back home, but he wanted to meet my mom and my brothers and get to know me on a better level,” Kaye said. “It just shows he’s a very genuine person.”
Having made his way to MLS with LAFC before the start of the 2018 season, Kaye is now excited his former coach has gotten an MLS opportunity of his own. O’Connor was hired by Orlando City SC on June 29.
“I thought it would have happened earlier than now. I had no doubt whatsoever that he would end up being in MLS or going back abroad,” Kaye said. “He’s a very good coach, and I think over the three years that Louisville has been in the USL, it’s been the most consistent team. It’s a very big point on what he’s been able to do.”
At the helm of Orlando City, O’Connor leads a team in the midst of a an eight-match losing streak to Banc of California Stadium to face LAFC on Saturday (8pm PT | FS1). Despite Orlando City’s recent run, Kaye thinks his old coach will have his new side up for the match with the Black & Gold.
“I’m not going to be shocked to see if Orlando comes out and they might high press us. Really try to take the game to us,” Kaye said. “He’s also very good at finding ways to get his players to work together on one page. Everyone to understand their roles as a team.
“They are lucky to have him, and it should be a great game on the weekend.”