How does Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis rate his team’s chances of making the playoffs?
“Slim” and “not dead” were the verdicts after a 1-1 tie
with Columbus at Orlando City Stadium Saturday in which OCSC piled up an amazing 20-4 edge in shots. There were signs of better days ahead: Dom Dwyer, in his home debut as a Lion, put in a
solid shift after entering in the 63rd minute, and another recent acquisition, midfielder Yoshimar Yotun,brightened the midfield with his touches and runs though most of his passes in
the final third went astray. But the result left OCSC five points out of a playoff slot, which was the goal stated by team management when it named Kreis to replace Adrian Heath 13 months
OCSC was in much the same spot for its inaugural MLS season in 2015, when it finished five points shy of the postseason. Heath got the boot last year and since then the Lions under
Kreis haven’t shown significant change:
Orlando City (2015-2017)
The two coaches are nearly dead-even during their stints with Orlando City: Heath
(16-19-18) with 1.245 points per game and Kreis (13-16-11) with 1.250 points per game.
A peek into the probable future was provided by the game Saturday. Team icon Kaka stood
in The Wall with fans, having been banished by a one-game suspension incurred when he gently yet deliberately twice put his hands on the face of former OCSC teammate Aurelien Collin during a
match against the Red Bulls a week earlier. It seemed a senseless act of indiscipline from a player with one foot already out the door.
OCSC failed to exploit a man advantage provided
when Harrison Afful clubbed Yotun with a forearm and after a video review was sent off.
The Lions are 5-2-1 this season when Kaka misses the entire match, and as the disappointing
results pile up the feeling strengthens that a fast start -- OCSC won four of five games in March and April with Kaka sidelined -- negates a sense of dependence on the Brazilian, who is 35 and not
looking nearly as lively as other MLS veterans of his age, such as David Villa.
That may seem an unfair comparison but both are veteran -- and expensive -- Designated Players
signed to deliver on and off the field. Villa has been a consummate pro as well as a constant MVP candidate. Kaka has done great work in the community but his play has toggled between brilliant and
benign. Someone else can explain how Villa ($5.6 million) lags behind Kaka, the league’s highest-paid player at $7.17 million.
To his credit, Kreis this season tried to add some
attacking impetus. Former Quake MatiasPerez Garcia was sent packing in late June, and RSL ex-prodigy Luis Gil lasted just a few months prior to being traded to Colorado for
Dillon Powers, who with Yotun figure to carry the creative burden should Kaka depart after the season ends.
Other moves, such as the signings of defender Jonathan Spector
and midfielder Will Johnson, addressed vital needs. Spector was leading the team in minutes played before he suffered an LCL sprain two weeks ago, and Johnson suffered a sprained ankle against
Columbus that will sidelined him for at least two weeks and perhaps as many as four.
Another key injury -- to Dwyer’s nose -- has slowed the process of forging a partnership with
Cyle Larin, whose suspension after a DIU arrest in June dropped one more boulder in the team’s rocky path to the postseason.
“I thought he brought some fantastic energy
tonight, took two really good strikes that the goalkeeper made good saves on,” Kreis said of Dwyer. “You can see when he brings that kind of energy that it can really help our
Among the success stories during Kreis’ tenure is right
back Scott Sutter, a native of London who played in Switzerland, the birthplace of his father, before signing an MLS deal in March. He has started 21 of his 23 appearances, and while scoring
one goal and registering three assists has committed just 12 fouls and never been cautioned. The stability he has provided to that corner of the field contrasts sharply with breakdowns in many other
In his postgame comments, Kreis reminded everyone that his plan has been to build the team “bit by bit.” The teams looks destined for a major clearout of salary and
personnel during the offseason, but the playoff push must continue until the math cannot be ignored.
“Everybody else out there can think we’re dead, but we’re
not,” Kreis said. “We don’t believe we’re dead. We still believe we have every chance to push forward and reach our objective.”