ORLANDO, Fla. – For the second straight season – despite a surplus of ambition, massive crowds, the best young striker in MLS and former Balon d’Or winner in Kaka – Orlando City’s playoff dreams have gone unfulfilled.
There was nothing but disappointment in the home locker room following a 1-0 defeat at the hand of the Didier Drogba-less Montreal Impact that abruptly shut the playoff door in the Lions’ faces, but it wasn’t Sunday afternoon’s performance that head coach Jason Kreis blamed for the team's postseason failure.
The Lions put in 22 efforts on goal to Montreal’s four, won 12-2 on corner count, enjoyed almost 70 percent of possession and still came up empty in a must-win game that saw Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush stone Cyle Larin on numerous occasions.
“Obviously we are all deeply disappointed,” Kreis said. “I think we all put a tremendous amount into that game; we really gave our hearts and souls to it. From the coaching staff, from the players’ point of view, I couldn’t be happier with the work everyone has done and the effort everyone has given, but soccer can be a cruel game and that’s what we saw today.
“We did everything but finish our chances, and if we had finished just one of them, I think the game would have been much different. There were a few times when I thought we needed to make some smarter decisions on the ball, but it was really about the final touch and just being a little more precise with the final pass or the final shot in and around the box.”
Ultimately, however, three dropped points aren’t the difference between playoffs and disappointment. It was Orlando’s season-long struggle with home form, most notably with losses in three of their previous four outings at Camping World Stadium, that doomed their playoff push.
“We lost too many games at home,” Kreis said. “I’m deeply, deeply regretful about it, and I think we now have to do everything we can to make sure we don’t finish with another loss at home.
“I feel that this team has some very talented attacking players. Unfortunately, we just lost a little bit of juice when we needed it most, but it’s not something we’ll be looking to address going into the offseason as we believe in the players playing in those positions.”
Kreis pointed to a frustrating afternoon for Larin, who has one goal in the past six games, as a major turning point.
“This should be a good learning experience for Cyle,” he said. “I feel over the last several games he’s slipped a little bit and goals that he would score 1,000 percent of the time, he’s missed, and he’s lacked a bit of sharpness. But he has a long, long career ahead of him and he has potential through the roof. Sometimes these are moments to reflect on and to think what he might have done differently.”
For Kaka, there was no consolation in a huge individual and collective effort that has again fizzled out short of real success in the second year of his MLS mission.
“We tried everything we could today,” the Brazilian star insisted. “But really it is a little bit late to try [like this]. We had a whole season, a lot of games when we didn’t try in the way we did in these last two games, so this is the lesson for me today. If we had fought like this [earlier], we would be in a better situation.
“It’s hard to put into words how bad it is, how sad we are, but now we have two games left and not having something to fight for is really, really sad. You can look around [the locker room] and see how everyone feels, but it’s time for everyone to think about next season and what we can do better to change things.”