PURCHASE, N.Y. – New York City FC and Orlando City SC will forever be intertwined.
On March 8, 2015, the two expansion teams played their first-ever Major League Soccer match, an entertaining 1-1 draw at Camping World Stadium.
Some 17 months later, NYCFC return to Orlando on Sunday, this time to face off against former coach Jason Kreis for the first time (7 pm ET; FS1 in US, MLS LIVE in Canada).
“When he got the job I just wished him good luck and [said] see you soon, because we were playing them in a month,” NYCFC midfielder Tommy McNamara said of Kreis. “I haven’t talked to him since. This will be the first time speaking to him again.”
Kreis was well-liked and well respected during his time with NYCFC, which came to an abrupt halt when the club failed to make the MLS Cup Playoffs at the end of their expansion year.
“We didn’t accomplish the goals we wanted to, but I enjoyed the work environment that we were in under that staff,” McNamara said.
That’s why McNamara was so pleased to see Kreis and assistant coaches Miles Joseph and CJ Brown find a new home so quickly, even if it is with an Eastern Conference foe.
“I was happy for the staff, happy they were able to land on their feet, and it will be good to see them again this weekend,” McNamara said.
If not for Kreis, R.J. Allen might not have been given a chance to make his MLS debut. Kreis hand-picked Allen to help work out David Villa ahead of the team’s inaugural season and then signed the fullback on May 2, 2015 after Allen was invited to train with the team.
“Obviously he’s the guy who brought me in. He’s done well as an MLS coach throughout his career,” Allen said. “I have a lot of respect for him and I thank him for the opportunity, but now I’m with a new manager. I’m really enjoying my time with Patrick [Vieira] and looking forward to a bright future with him.”
Given Kreis’ pedigree, Allen knew he would resurface somewhere in MLS after being let go by NYCFC.
“Obviously he has a lot of history in this league,” Allen said of Kreis, who won an MLS Cup with Real Salt Lake in 2009. “I think a lot of people had no doubt he would eventually find another team to coach for. He’s a great manager.”
Vieira, who became the second manager in NYCFC history in January, said it is still too soon to know how Orlando City SC is different under Kreis than Adrian Heath.
“It’s difficult to say because he’s only been there for a few games,” Vieira said.
Allen said the focus come Sunday is on the match at hand, a difficult game against a team desperate to make the playoffs for the first time. The same is true of NYCFC.
“They’re a good team, and they’re really fighting for points, fighting for that last playoff spot right now, so it will be a really good battle,” Allen said. “It’s two teams who really have a lot to prove.”