“It’s a good thing I’ve got another five days to figure that out,” he responded to the inevitable question about how big a blow it was to see skipper Kaká limp off after just 11 minutes with what was immediately diagnosed as a left hamstring injury.
Orlando face a trip to New England on Saturday (2 pm ET | MLS LIVE), and the gut-punch loss of the team’s talisman and creative force was palpable, despite the euphoria of a winning start to life in their new purpose-built stadium. Kreis was quick to put it in perspective.
“We don’t have an MRI back there in the locker room, but it looks like this could be a pretty serious injury,” he added. “I am very, very disappointed for him. He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason and hard in the preseason.
“This could’ve been a huge night for him. I think everyone could see the energy he was already putting into the game in those 11 minutes. I thought this was going to be a special night for him. Deeply disappointed for him but the team moved on, and that’s a positive thing.”
Kreis was encouraged that the team rallied without their captain, albeit they were on the back foot for much of the game against a dominant but ultimately toothless New York attack.
“This was something to build on,” he insisted. “Obviously all the energy and nerves that go into a night like tonight take their toll, but now we’ve got this in our pocket. There were a lot of mistakes, but people had positive reactions to those mistakes and we made plays [defensively].”
New acquisition Giles Barnes admitted it had been tough to be called into action so early to replace Kaká, but it was a tribute to the team’s organization and preparation that their focus wasn’t derailed by the huge setback.
“I knew I had to step on the pitch and be as prepared as possible,” said the former Vancouver Whitecaps and Houston attacking midfielder, who joined the team only last week. “Unfortunately, it came at the expense of someone as valuable as Kaká, but [coach] Kreis is very meticulous and strategic in everything he does, and he had explained what my role would be if I came on in any of the front four positions, so I knew exactly what I had to do.”
New defensive signing Jonathan Spector paid tribute to Barnes for his role in helping to fill the void left by the Brazilian superstar.
“Kaká’s a great player and he’s a loss certainly, but Giles came in and did extremely well,” the US national team center back insisted. “That’s one of the great things about this team – we have so much strength in depth. So, when someone like Kaká goes down and someone like Giles comes in, in a league like this, I think we are in a really good position.”
Goalscorer Cyle Larin also insisted the team was highly motivated to win for its stricken captain.
“It was very tough,” he said. “I saw him go down, and it was tough, but you have to keep playing. We lose a big player, a big piece that we really need, but we have players on the bench who can come in and do a good job, and that’s what Giles showed.”