Happy Birthday, coach! As Jason Kreis celebrates his 44th birthday today, Orlando City SC works hard on the market to give the head coach a roster capable of making him commemorate his next anniversary as an MLS champion.
As an MLS Cup winner himself, leading Real Salt Lake to the title in 2009, Kreis knows what is necessary to succeed in the league. The Mane Land, though, presents you a list of gifts the Lions boss would certainly be happy to receive from the front office:
An Elite Center Back
Orlando City’s back line has struggled considerably in 2016 – the team led MLS in goals against, with 60 overall and 1.76 per game. The front office already made some changes, letting Englishman Seb Hines walk and re-signing Jose Aja’s contract. Both the Uruguayan and 19-year-old Tommy Redding are young and expected to show some progress in 2017, but the Lions still lack a cornerstone on defense.
The club has been linked with a “European elite center back” for a few weeks and Grégory Sertic, currently with Ligue 1 FC Girondins de Bordeaux, is apparently the target, as the Orlando Sentinel’s Alicia DelGallo reported last week. If the deal does not get done, the Lions should find a new option and not give up on adding a new piece to their defense.
Depth at the Fullback Positions
Interior defense is not the only issue of Orlando City’s back line at this point. With the departures of Kevin Alston and Luke Boden, who did not have their contracts extended, and Mikey Ambrose, selected by Atlanta United in the expansion draft, the team has now only two viable options to play at fullback.
Portuguese up-and-comer Rafael Ramos on the right, and new addition Donny Toia on the opposite side, would be the starters if the season began today and are definitely MLS caliber players. Brek Shea could be an option as well, but it seems like Kreis is not convinced that he could thrive as a left back. With a long and exhausting season ahead of them, the Lions should seriously consider adding some depth to this position.
A Backup Forward
Cyle Larin will probably be Orlando City’s top choice at the No. 9 spot for as long as he stays with the club. The 21-year-old Canadian has been outstanding in his first two seasons with the Lions and seems en route to becoming one of Major League Soccer’s top forwards for years to come. But every player — and especially the best ones — needs a good backup, a thing Larin doesn’t have now.
This role was partially performed by Brazilian veteran Julio Baptista in 2016, but The Beast did not have his contract extended for the upcoming season. The ideal situation would be signing someone who could either capably replace Larin in his striker spot or play alongside him, providing the Lions head coach with options to go with up front.