SANFORD, Fla. – Orlando City SC may have had their most active offseason in recent time, but the club is avoiding constant talk about making the upcoming 2018 season one where they finally qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“We need to be focused in all of the details that need to happen on a day-to-day basis and let the end results be there," Orlando head coach Jason Kreis said after Wednesday’s training. "We know it’s there, but we don’t need to be talking about it every single day.
“We need to be talking about everything that we need to do to improve day by day, and if we do that, we have no doubts we have the quality in the room to get to the goal we want to get to,” added Kreis.
After a third failure to make the postseason in as many tries in 2017, Orlando added 14 new players this offseason, among them Justin Meram from Columbus Crew SC and Sacha Kljestan of the New York Red Bulls.
But the Lions won't be at full strength for Saturday's opener at home against D.C. United (7:30 pm ET). Young Designated Player midfielder Josue Colman will is out with a thigh bruise and forward Dom Dwyer is still battling a quadriceps strain.
Midfielder Oriol Rosell, who joined the club late in preseason, is not match fit yet and Dillon Powers injured his ankle during a preseason scrimmage against Philadelphia, according to Kreis. Defender Lamine Sane could feature on Saturday, Kreis told reporters on Wednesday.
With Kljestan also serving the first of a two-game suspension, the Lions find themselves facing some adversity to open the season. And that can be a good thing.
“I think pressure is good," Meram said. "It builds character, it pushes the guys to raise their level, and I love the pressure, so I know myself and the other guys will be ready. Right now, we have to focus on the first game and take it step by step. We’re still trying to make some tweaks and understand how we can be even better, and that takes more practice throughout the year.”
"We have a lot of leaders who lead by example with their voice and various ways." -Jonathan Spector pic.twitter.com/xQ0rEst9zA— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) March 1, 2018
Defender Jonathan Spector, who was named team captain for 2018 on Wednesday, understands the importance of getting off to a good start despite the early challenges the squad faces.
“It doesn’t matter if you have the same team from last season, or a completely new team, you want to get off to a good start,” Spector said. “We only have a few games before a break already, but it’s important to pick up those points because you want to go into that break feeling like you achieved and accomplished something and all the hard work you’ve done on the training pitch is panned out and achieved something as a group.”
Kreis believes his squad will only grow stronger as the season progresses and more players become available for selection.
“That’s the absolute objective," he said. "In my experience in this league, it is not the team that starts out the year that wins the league, it is the team that finishes the year best that wins MLS Cup."