ORLANDO, Fla. – As a glimpse into Orlando City SC’s future, head coach Jason Kreis was hugely encouraged by the Lions' 4-2 final game win over D.C. United Sunday.
In the wake of the team’s farewell match at Camping World Stadium before they move to their new, 25,500-seat downtown Orlando home next year, Kreis presented an optimistic view of the team's future, while insisting there won't be any room for complacency going forward.
“I was very pleased with the performance,” he said. “It’s hard when you don’t have a playoff objective in front of you. So self-motivation comes in, and the players took that on at full bore, embraced it, and gave it everything they could.
“And my message to the team is that when they do that – when they are fully committed and there is no sense of complacency within the group – they can be very good. But we are still not a team that can handle any complacency, as you saw in the game today. We got to 2-0 and 3-1, and there was a little bit of a sense of complacency. There will be nobody coming back next year that can afford any sense of complacency.”
The final analysis of the Lions’ second MLS season was all about how the head coach viewed what he saw on the field in the last four games – when they went 2-1-1 and conceded just three goals – and how it translates to 2017. And he was unequivocal in his judgment.
“What I really liked for, I think the first time since I’ve been here, was that there was a sense of urgency about how we approached the first 15, 20 minutes of the game,” Kreis said. “That’s something that needs to become a trademark of Orlando City soccer.
“We saw snap-shots tonight of what we’ve been looking for [since becoming coach in July], and what we will continue to look for. So I think it leaves a great visual image in the fans’ minds of what they can expect to see next year.”
With four of his midfielders (Kevin Molino, Kaká, Cristian Higuita, with his first of the year, and Julio Baptista) getting on the scoresheet, and players queuing up at times to take shots, Kreis confirmed it was the high-pressing, dynamic style he wants to install.
“I believe that with the quality of players we have, that when those players are playing well, goalscoring chances will come,” he said. “And I think more scoring chances will come if we’re positioned behind them well enough to keep the ball in the opponents’ half. Tonight we did a good job of that, and there was also a good flow and tempo to the game.”
There was still a word of warning from the coach, though, that one good performance is only the start.
“Clearly if the players don’t believe that every time they step on the pitch they are auditioning, then they are getting the wrong message, because they are,” he added.
Finally Kreis took a moment to look back on a whirlwind three months in charge with the Lions.
“I would say I haven’t made any mark yet, but I am certainly hopeful that I can,” he concluded. “I have fallen in love with this community very, very quickly, and I will be more than willing to do anything necessary to help this club move forward next year.”