Orlando City SC face an uphill climb to reach the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and coach Jason Kreis believes a leadership vacuum is a big part of the problem.
The Lions were thumped 4-1 by D.C. United at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, their third straight loss – all of which have seen the Orlando back line ship four goals. Kreis sounded both puzzled and upset in his postgame remarks.
“Ultimately, I'm the leader. I think it's upon me and the coaching staff to do everything we can, especially at the halftime, to make sure that they're ready to come out in the second half,” said the Lions' new boss. “So I look first and foremost at myself.
“Do I think that there's a little bit of lack-of-a-leadership problem on this team? Yeah, it's one of the things we identified before we came. I think some of the guys have done a good job to step forward and take a little bit more of a vocal leadership role, but we're not quite getting enough of it yet.”
The win pushed D.C. into the Eastern Conference's sixth and final playoff place at 37 points, leaving Orlando three points back with just four games left in the regular season. Kreis pointed to his team's woeful start to the second half, as they entered the break down 1-0 only to find themselves behind by three goals and down a man by the 66th minute.
“Really, really disappointed right now, of course. The problem seems pretty obvious – we’ve given up 12 goals in three games,” he told reporters. “We’ve been working defensively since I got here. I felt like we were moving in a very positive direction and then things went drastically wrong in the last three matches.”
Kreis was asked whether his squad possesses the characteristics required to snap out of their slump and surge into the postseason.
“I don’t have the answer to that. The players have the answer to that,” he said.
“The training sessions have been good, the work rate's been good, the spirit's been good,” he later noted. “There's something happening right now, I'm not sure quite what it is, amongst the players. Whether it's a little bit of a lack of belief, whether maybe there's some feeling that we need to get smacked in the face before we're ready to play, I'm not sure what it is.”