ORLANDO, Fla. – The dust has settled from the late-game flare-ups that marred the end of Orlando City SC’s defeat at New York Red Bulls last Saturday, but there is one aspect of the game that Lions head coach Jason Kreis doesn’t want his men to forget.
Despite the mini-feuds that cropped up in the closing minutes of the loss – which ultimately led to a one-game red card suspension for Kaká due to his controversial flashpoint with Aurelien Collin – Kreis liked the fighting spirit his men showed, and he wants to see more of it.
“Right now it’s about how badly do we want it, how much are we willing to fight for it? For me, I don’t view that as a negative sign that we’ve got guys who are pretty emotionally invested here,” he said.
The team released a statement on Monday about not challenging Kaká’s dismissal, which was only made after Video Review, while the captain himself issued a series of tweets on Tuesday with his view of things.
But Kreis isn’t about to find fault with his players for their feisty approach to the Red Bulls game, especially with Saturday’s home clash with Columbus (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE) now a near must-win for their fading playoff hopes.
“[The players] were obviously very disappointed about where we were at in that game,” Kreis added. “I also think that when you play a team like the Red Bulls, it can be a very disruptive game. I think they got a lot of fouls in as the game wore on, disrupted pretty much every attacking movement we had very well. Tactically, it’s very wise on their part, so I think there was some pent-up frustration from our guys having to deal with that the entire match.”
The head coach also remains convinced Orlando still has what it takes to be playoff contenders, despite their current run of only two wins in the past 17 games after a 6-1-0 start.
“What was our record in the first seven games? Was it different players?” Kreis asked. “They are still here and we still have that ability to win games. You see the way we played in the first 45 minutes against the Red Bulls. That is what I mean when I say it is really not me believing in some sort of fairytale or Santa Claus.
“I believe in the players that we have and I believe in them for a reason, because I’ve seen them perform. I will also tell you without hesitation that this coaching staff is working harder than we ever have before, and this staff has had a lot of success in this league. I believe if we continue to work that way, the success will come.”
Orlando was without recent signing Dom Dwyer for the Red Bulls defeat after the striker needed nose surgery from an injury suffered the previous week in the Lions' loss at Montreal. Kreis is cautiously optimistic Dwyer will be back for a home debut against Crew SC.
“Dom wasn’t with the group today because we’re still a little bit cautious about contact,” he explained. “His mask that he’s going to wear is still being formed, but we will pick up a bit tomorrow and do some more training on Friday. I don’t use the word ‘expect’ too much, but I am hopeful.”
Finally, the head coach returned to his main talking point with the team this week, on the positives of last weekend’s game with New York, and how they build on them.
“Everybody defensively and offensively was excellent against the Red Bulls [in the first half],” Kreis said. “I believe [New York] had zero shots on goal and that’s saying something when you can play a team like the Red Bulls, in their stadium, and have that kind of performance over 45 minutes.
“Now it’s about translating that to 90 minutes, because nobody remembers the 45. It’s coaches that are trying to stick up for themselves that remember the 45 minutes. Everybody else needs to see it for 90 minutes. So that’s the task in front of us.”