MELBOURNE, Fla. – A new head coach, but similar problems for Orlando City SC.
That was the takeaway on Wednesday night from the Lions’ prestige friendly with English Premier League side Stoke City at Eastern Florida College, the home of their Orlando City B USL team.
For new man Jason Kreis, it was his first chance to see his players in regular action after taking charge last week. While he admitted there was “some good, some bad” in the 2-1 defeat, it was the team’s defensive failings in conceding twice in the second half that most caught his attention.
“At the end of the day, we lost the match, so we need to be critical of ourselves and improve in those areas,” he said. “There were some really positive things but there are some things we need to learn and get right.
“We were asking the players to do some different things, as this was effectively a training session for us, so it was about coming out and training and learning. They are getting there, but there are a couple of things we’re asking them that are a little bit difficult to grasp, and it’s going to take more than a couple of training sessions.”
Kreis himself was delighted to get back into his first serious game action since the final outing of the 2015 season with New York City FC. He was relieved of his duties about a week later.
“It was fine, just fine,” he said. “It felt like I hadn’t stepped off the bike.
“Mainly, I was just pleased with the overall effort and the fact that the guys stayed together, that they saw each half through. It’s a learning experience for us right now.”
Orlando had much the better of the early exchanges but failed to seriously test Stoke’s England goalkeeper Jack Butland, who is slowly coming back from a serious ankle injury that kept him out of Euro 2016.
The visitors were solid without having match sharpness barely two weeks into their pre-season campaign. The first half finished scoreless before things changed dramatically at the start of the second period.
Kreis made eight changes at halftime, and a completely new back four were still getting to know each other when Mame Diouf broke through into the penalty area, and the Senegalese striker beat Earl Edwards Jr. at the second attempt.
The Lions responded immediately. First-round SuperDraft pick Hadji Barry scored his first goal for the team just eight minutes later, flashing some lovely skill in the penalty area before firing a left-footed shot that Butland couldn’t keep out.
But another giveaway in their defensive third coast Orlando dear in the 64th minute as Bojan Krkic found plenty of space to curl an 18-yard shot past the helpless Edwards. And that was the big teaching point for Kreis.
“The focus for this group right now first and foremost, and probably for the next two weeks, will be squarely placed on the defensive side of things,” he said. “For the first 45 minutes, the objective was reached. The second 45, we had two goals scored against us, but if you looked analytically at how the goals came, one was from a tactical learning situation and the other comes just from a giveaway at the back.”