ORLANDO, Fla. – Switching coaches mid season is never an easy exercise for a franchise, and that is certainly true for the players of that particular team. Just ask Orlando City SC’s international star Kaká.
The great Brazilian played under three head coaches in four years at Real Madrid and three in two spells with AC Milan (totaling seven seasons), so he is no stranger to the turmoil of teams changing their coaching strategy and players having to adapt to it.
He is quick to point out the sheer hard work that has already gone into adjusting from Adrian Heath to Jason Kreis, but is under no illusions the team still has a lot more to do.
“For now it is a question of understanding the right philosophy that Jason wants to do here with us,” Kaká explained after training on Thursday. “He has just been here for two weeks so far, so we are still understanding what he wants and trying to do it.
“It is just the [new] philosophy, [learning] some different ways to defend or some new things about how we attack, pressing [the other team], and this is something we need to train with every day so that these things become automatic.”
Orlando’s morning sessions under the hot Florida sun have quickly become something of a marathon event, with some intense coaching and fitness work that often over-runs the usual time-slot by an hour or more. But it is only part and parcel of the change from one regime to another, and the different coaching styles that go with it.
“We need a lot of time and repetitions.” Kaká added. “It’s a boring [type of] training but it is necessary. It seems long but, as I said, it is necessary because it needs to be automatic for us on the field.
“When we have the ball we need to know [instinctively] what we’re going to do, and when we defend also, we need to know what to do. We shouldn’t have to think about what we’re going to do. This kind of repetition needs a lot of time.”
The Kreis era kicked off in encouraging fashion with a 3-1 home win over New England but then suffered a distinct setback in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Seattle. Now it faces another test with a pair of road games, starting with the trip to the Eastern Conference’s bottom club Chicago on Sunday (4 pm ET; UniMás in US | MLS LIVE in Canada).
Orlando have just a 1-5-4 record away from Camping World Stadium this year, and Kaká is well aware the team also needs to put that right as well as absorb all their new tactical requirements.
“Playing on the road has been hard for us this year,” he admitted. “But I will always say I am a positive guy, and I think we have opportunities to change the situation with two important games now on the road at Chicago and Colorado. They are good games to play and good games to win, and convince ourselves we can make the playoffs.”
Although the subsequent three games are all against Supporters' Shield candidates in Colorado, Toronto and New York City, Kaká does not see Sunday’s clash with the Fire as a must-win for the Lions, simply as another chance to prove they are improving under Kreis.
“I don’t think it’s a time to think if we lose or not, that if we don’t get three points we are going to miss the playoffs,” he insisted. “It is just a moment that we need to think we are going to win the game, preparing ourselves for this one game, and after that we can talk about what we got or didn’t get.”
Kaká is mainly anxious Orlando do not look past Chicago and the Fire’s struggles to make an impact this season.
“Chicago have guys who are so fast that they are good on the counter-attack so we need to be aware and be ready,” the City captain said. “It is always dangerous when you play a team like them, who are not in a good moment, who might be struggling a little bit, but I think it’s a good opportunity for us as well.”