CHESTER, Pa. — Even after Orlando City SC were eliminated from playoff contention two weeks ago, head coach Jason Kreis insisted the final two games of the season were important for him to gauge his players going into 2017.
Those players must have been paying attention.
“It was a really positive performance from everyone, from the starting lineup to the guys who came in as substitutions,” Kreis said. “I think they’re stating their case about where they want to be next year.”
Kreis was particularly proud of his team’s staunch defensive effort.
With the Union needing a result to officially clinch a playoff spot, Orlando stayed organized throughout. The Lions held the hosts without a shot on target in the first half, and came through with some big plays after the break to preserve the shutout.
“It’s been my feeling for a while now that when the players on the team are fully committed to defend is when we get results,” Kreis said. “When we’re not fully committed to defend, we don’t get results. I think tonight we saw a concerted effort to give their best defensively.”
One of those defensive players was Rafael Ramos, who returned to the lineup for the first time since May. He noted that it was important for “the club, the community and for our pride” to finish strong.
It’s also a good omen for the future of the club, as Ramos was one of four players in the starting lineup who are 21 or 22 years old. Another was Rivas, who scored the winner.
“I think there’s definitely a foundation to be built around,” Kreis said. “I think there are some really, really talented players that are a big part of this club, have done a lot for the club, have given a lot for the club. And we will build around those types of players. You can’t go out and completely make wholesale changes and expect to be able to improve.”
Of course, before Kreis and Orlando turn their attention to 2017, they’re still hoping for a positive showing in their season finale vs. D.C. United next Sunday, Oct. 23 (4 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
“Our objective is to finish with a win at home,” Kreis said. “It’s a very big objective. We owe it to our fans.''