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MLS Closeup: Kreis, players take blame for Orlando loss
by Ridge Mahoney, June 16th, 2017 3:09AM
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TAGS:  mls, montreal impact, orlando city


What started off as a great week for Orlando City SC has tumbled right into the dumpster.

On Monday, OCSC was named as the 2017 winner of the Stuart Scott ENSPIRE Award for its humanitarian work in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

On Wednesday, the Lions tamely went down to defeat in the U.S. Open Cup to Miami FC of the NASL, 3-1. Early Thursday morning forward Cyle Larin, who didn’t suit up for the Miami game, was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol for driving under the influence.

Head coach Jason Kreis blamed himself for the Miami debacle, witnessed by 5,838 fans -- most of them incredulous -- at Orlando City Stadium. In the aftermath of Larin’s arrest, the team issued the following statement on the Canadian international, who is undergoing evaluation in the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and his ineligible to play as the team and league work through the legal process:

“Orlando City SC takes great pride in the way it represents the Orlando community and expects all players, coaches and front office staff to uphold that standard at all times, both on and off the field. The Club is very disappointed in Cyle Larin’s actions that resulted in this charge and does not take this situation lightly. We are working with local authorities, Major League Soccer and Cyle to take appropriate action in line with league protocol.”

Thus, Kreis and the Lions must push forward without their first-ever draft pick and one of their most productive players -- 39 goals in 74 appearances -- since they made the jump from the USL to MLS in 2015. After starting the season by winning six of seven, the Lions are mired in an eight-game rut of one win and four losses in eight games.

The feeble Open Cup loss inexplicably followed one of the team’s best efforts, a 0-0 tie with Chicago June 4 that the Lions finished with nine men following red cards issued to Rafael Ramos and Antonio Nocerino.

All the spirit and camaraderie and determination on display took the night off. Kreis, as do many MLS coaches when their teams start out in the Open Cup, left a lot of starters out of the starting lineup -- Larin did not make the game-day roster -- yet still expected much more than he got.

“For me, this is the most disappointing night since I’ve been in Orlando, and I want to take full and complete responsibility for it,” said Kreis, who replaced Adrian Heath 11 months ago. “There are three things coaches are tasked with, and that is to have the players ready physically, mentally and tactically, and, from my point of view, we did not do our jobs tonight.”

The Lions were outshot, 17-9, and didn’t score their goal until Giles Barnes got on the board with the match already decided by a Stefano Pinho.hat trick. Miami also won 39 duels to 23 for Orlando, a sharp indicator of which team came to the table hungrier.

“Miami were clearly the better team, and they deserve a tremendous respect and admiration for that,” said Kreis. “But as angry and disappointed as I am, this is not the first time a lower division team has beaten an MLS team, nor will it be the last. Perhaps they were more motivated than we were, but again, that is the coach’s fault.”

Barnes challenged his teammates to look away from Kreis’ comments and peer into the mirror. After a 10-day gap between the Chicago tie and Miami FC embarrassment, a quick return to league play Saturday against Montreal offers short-term redemption.

“Jason being the man that he is will probably want to take the blame, but it’s our duty,” said Barnes. “We’re the people that he put on the pitch. It was our duty to do him justice, and we didn’t. We didn’t do the fans justice, and we didn’t do the club justice, so we’ve got to get ready and firing again for Saturday.”

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