Kreis salutes players, fans as Orlando unite to gain unlikely draw vs. Fire

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jason Kreis handed out plaudits to all of his players – and then the fans – after Orlando City’s dramatic backs-to-the-wall 0-0 home draw against the Chicago Fire, a match where the hosts finished the night with just nine players on the field.

The Lions head coach refused to comment on the two contentious red cards shown to his men – first for Rafael Ramos on 26 minutes, and then for Antonio Nocerino after 66 – insisting he didn’t want any “negatives” to mar his appreciation for the point so fiercely earned.

“For me, the point of view should only be positive because the work that those guys put in tonight, the togetherness and commitment that they showed, what they were willing to do for each other and the fans, it was second to none,” Kreis said. “I just want to say hats off to our boys.”

Orlando were clearly angered by the decisions against both Ramos – playing his first game of the season – for a collision with Brandon Vincent, and then Nocerino, as he challenged Matt Polster. But Kreis pointed to the leadership of Will Johnson for steering the team through the crisis points.

“Will just went in there and did anything and everything that it took to lead this team to a result,” he said. “But he wasn’t the only one. I think everyone who played in this match showed what they were willing to give to this team, this community and this club. The simple fact to be down a man for 68 minutes and then two men for as long as we were tonight, it was absolutely incredible. Nothing short of fantastic.”

Kreis also attributed the hard-won point to staying calm on the sidelines – and frenzied and supportive in the stands.

“As you go through your coaching experience, you start to realize that the first inclination is to be really mad about the decision, and sometimes you can let that anger and emotion affect your ability to make decisions,” he explained. “I think I’m learning to get past those decisions and figure out ‘What are we going to do to put the guys in the right place to get a result?’ The coaching staff collectively did a great job of that tonight.

“But again and again and again, the crowd is nothing short of fantastic and so important to us. They should feel like they’re getting some of these points themselves. I know I walked off the field sweating and I feel quite certain a lot of the fans did. We are just really appreciative of them and their efforts.”

Midfield strongman Johnson also underlined the effect of the crowd, and the team’s abiding feeling of unity through adversity.

“When you feel like everything’s against you, it kind of rallies you and unites you,” said Johnson. “But our group understood. We’ve worked on that in training, with numbers down, and how we manage that, so we were prepared well. You feel united [as a team], and then the support of the fans was pretty special. They understood the situation and how big that point was going to be, and they pushed us towards it.”