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Kreis shaping Orlando for post-Kaka era

first_imgMLS Kreis shaping revamped Orlando City for the post-Kaka era Thomas Floyd @thomasfloyd10 Last updated 1 year ago 00:14 2/27/18 FacebookTwitterRedditcopy Comments(0) Sacha Kljestan Kaka MLS All-Stars Jerry Lai MLS Orlando City The third-year coach has overseen an offseason overhaul in hopes of leading the franchise to its first MLS playoff appearance Orlando City made a substantial miscalculation. Jason Kreis knows as much now, hindsight being 20/20 and all.But when the club’s front office devised a strategy for the 2017 MLS campaign, an overhaul wasn’t in the cards. The Lions had finished just one point shy of a playoff spot in Kreis’ first full season in charge. Add a starter here, a depth piece there, and Orlando could ride its spark-plug of a new stadium to the club’s first playoff appearance since entering MLS in 2015.”We took a very conscious decision last offseason to not change things radically,” Kreis told Goal. “We took the decision at the time because we felt we were very close to being good enough to be a playoff team, to be a contender for MLS Cup. Editors’ Picks Lyon treble & England heartbreak: The full story behind Lucy Bronze’s dramatic 2019 Liverpool v Man City is now the league’s biggest rivalry and the bitterness is growing Megan Rapinoe: Born & brilliant in the U.S.A. A Liverpool legend in the making: Behind Virgil van Dijk’s remarkable rise to world’s best player “But what we found was we were wrong.”For what it’s worth, the approach looked foolproof for a while. By the time April turned to May, the Lions were preying upon the rest of the Eastern Conference. But that was before the forgiveness of a front-loaded home schedule gave way to an elongated reality check. Having won six of the club’s first seven games, Orlando only notched four victories in its 27 remaining contests while finishing second-to-last in the East.Injuries played their part, and some players underperformed. Off-the-field problems surfaced as well. The reality, though? Orlando just wasn’t good enough.”We felt like we needed to take a more radical direction,” Kreis said. “That was to essentially completely overhaul the team, and we’ve worked extremely hard in the offseason to find new players, to work deals, to trade for some very top-level players and ultimately find people that are like us — that are extremely competitive, that are extremely willing and able to do anything necessary to improve this team and to improve our fortunes.”Trades brought in MLS standouts Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram to inject the attacking midfield with proven quality. Oriol Rosell — perhaps the smoothest metronome MLS had to offer during his stint with Sporting Kansas City — arrived from Sporting CP. The club hopes the signing of Paraguayan playmaker Josue Colman, 19, brings promise and production. And the back line was bolstered by the acquisition of Senegal international Lamine Sane from Werder Bremen.Jason Kreis Orlando CityFactor in midfielder Yoshimar Yotun and forward Dom Dwyer — high-profile additions from midway through last season — and Kreis seems poised to field a first XI virtually unrecognizable from the unit he relied on in the first half of 2017.”We’ve found players that fit the system that Jason and the coaching staff here really want to play,” Orlando defender Jonathan Spector said. “That was key for us. We’ve got good players in those roles, and we’ve got depth now. Now it’s integrating them into the team, getting them to understand the culture of this group and what we’re trying to build here.”Building anew, of course, means tearing down the old. In shaping an identity for Orlando City, Kreis has seen the club move on from original faces of the franchise — most notably, Brazilian icon Kaka.While his production proved sporadic, Kaka was every bit the ambassador the fledgling club needed when it made the jump from the USL to MLS. Although Kaka’s retirement has been well addressed from a tactical standpoint, with Kljestan, Meram and Colman filling the midfield’s “creative vision” quota, Orlando was never going to find a like-for-like replacement in terms of brand-building reputation.The exit of Cyle Larin, on the other hand, had clearer on-the-field implications. Orlando’s first-ever draft pick, the Canada international represented a homemade star of sorts — making it all the more painful when he forced through a messy move to Besiktas this offseason. Now it’s up to Dwyer to translate his prolific track record to a new club and fill the shoes of the only leading scorer Orlando has known in its three MLS seasons.”The message that is being delivered and needs to be delivered is that we’re going to build faces of our franchise based on success,” Kreis said. “Let’s win as a team first, and then by winning we’ll establish players’ names that fans and people outside of our club would like to talk about. We are all laser focused on improving and getting results, and letting the chips fall where they may, so to speak, about who the fans deem are the stars.”Spector added: “I know having Kaka here was a great opportunity for me, to be able to play with someone like that who at one point was the best player in the world. But soccer moves on, right? It keeps changing and evolving.”While Kaka and Larin earned their places in Orlando City lore, they originally weren’t Kreis’ players — they were remnants of the Adrian Heath regime. Since taking over for Heath in July 2016, Kreis already had overseen a slow but steady roster revamp before this offseason’s more dramatic shift. Now, goalkeeper Joe Bendik and midfielder Cristian Higuita are the only players on the roster who saw the field under Heath.If the sum of Orlando’s parts again doesn’t add up this season, Kreis and Co. won’t be shying from responsibility.”If you asked me last year, I would have said, ‘This is my team. This is a team that I believe in because they are the ones putting it out there for us, the coaching staff, every single day and every single match,'” Kreis said. “But truth be told, there may have been a collection of players that it didn’t seem like we could do anything with from a contractual standpoint. You’re making the best out of the tools you’ve been given.”This season, after the process we have gone through, now I could say 100 percent that all of the players that are here and will be a part of the club in 2018 are guys that are our guys. This is now our team, without a shadow of a doubt.”last_img read more