ORLANDO, Fla. - Jason Kreis has already made some key observations about his new head-coaching gig with Orlando City SC, and he insists the signs are good for the “ideal” MLS club.
Kreis was back on a league training ground on Tuesday morning for the first time since being axed by New York City FC last November, a surprise exit that came after just one year with 2015’s other expansion team.
Now in charge of Orlando after the Lions parted company with Adrian Heath earlier this month, Kreis began his time with his new players by having a team meeting that overran by an hour before they hit the training field.
“This morning’s meeting was all about tactics and to give them a general overview of how we want to play and how we’ll see the game going forward,” said Kreis. “It was great, it was what I want. There was some interaction and some questions, and hopefully we have some clarity. That’s the meeting – now the training begins, to put into effect all those things.”
The new head coach put an emphasis on his strategy, especially defensively after seeing Orlando City come from 2-0 down to grab a 2-2 draw at Columbus on Saturday. He also laid out a short-term goal as well as a long-term one: to reach this year’s playoffs, and be a contender for years to come.
“At Columbus I saw two different matches,” Kreis added. “There was [falling behind 2-0] in the first 45 minutes and there was what happened in the second 45. The first 45, we need to digest and analyze, and I’ve got some feedback to the players already. The second 45, we want to say this is the group we want to work with, this is the group we need to have for the rest of the season and moving forward.”
He also relished the bullish post-game comments from skipper Kaká and goal-scoring midfielder Kevin Molino, both of whom insisted that the Lions can “definitely” make this year’s playoffs despite currently sitting below the red line.
“A thousand percent we want positivity and we want confidence,” said Kreis. “We want players that believe. I also believe, but I’m just not willing to make any promises about that because for me there are two objectives. There’s a short-term objective, which is to do everything we can to make the playoffs, but also a longer-term objective to put the team right for a long time to come.”
His initial comments on the contrast between New York City and Orlando were cautious – “That’s probably a question for a year and a half from now,” he said – but when asked to sum up his initial impressions, he offered some observations.
“This is an open book,” said Kreis. “They are open to the philosophies I would like to bring. The way we view the game as a coaching staff is very similar, I believe, to the way the leadership and ownership of the club would like to view it as well.
“The evaluation right now is I am very excited about this opportunity. To me, it could represent, it will represent over time, the absolute ideal MLS club.”
Kreis was an authoritative, no-nonsense figure with the assembled media on Tuesday, brushing aside questions on tactics while being more than happy to talk about his more hands-on role in player scouting and acquisition. He doesn’t rule out more arrivals during the final week of the summer transfer window, but also admittedly does not want to rush into any decisions that could affect the team long-term.
“I do believe the coaching staff is going to have a big role in the decision process for the players coming in," said Kreis. "We are going to do it very collaboratively so I want to say very clearly it is not a situation where it is my way or the highway. That’s not how I like to work.
"I like to work collaboratively with the entire coaching staff, with [founding owner] Phil [Rawlins], with the ownership, and with assistant general manager Niki Budalic, so we will make decisions collectively.”
Kreis is also happy with the fact his first game in charge will be Wednesday’s friendly with Premier League Stoke City, a fixture that initially threatened havoc on his game-planning for Sunday’s crucial home clash with New England Revolution (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“When I first saw that, I was a little bit aggrieved,” Kreis admitted. “I didn’t want to have to deal with a match in my first week. I would have preferred a full week of training, but we’ll approach that match and use it the right way. It could actually be beneficial now I’ve had time to digest it a bit. We’ll use it as a training session, as an evaluation piece to make decisions going forward.
“We’re going to ask players to do some small tactical adjustments that we talked about in this morning’s meeting, which we will address in today’s training and tomorrow morning as well. But we will basically be using it as preparation for New England and evaluation for all the players, including players from the B team to see if there’s anybody there who can help us.”
As far as the players’ view of the morning’s meeting and coming to grips with the new coaching philosophy, Molino provided some perspective.
“We were just going through a couple of things from the game against Columbus, especially the first half and the way we defended,” said Molino. “He was clear about it and we are going to work on it today in training. It was very positive from him. He explained what he wants us to do and what we’ll do in training.
"He was very specific and we’re looking forward to working with him and getting some more results.”