Over the past year, Orlando City has seemingly been a team in turmoil. With major turnover at the coaching position and in the front office, fans of the purple-clad Lions have wondered where the future of this team lies. With the hiring of Jason Kreis, Orlando City's board has made a statement.
The Orlando City board consists of four members. Englishmen Phil Rawlins and John Bonner have been owners of Orlando City since its inception in 2011. Brazilians Flavio Augusto da Silva and Alex Leitao, who became friends before moving to the United States, bought into the team together in 2013 and now hold the positions of chairman and CEO.
There have been rumors of a power struggle between the pairings for months. It's been speculated that Rawlins and Bonner want to keep the club the way it has been since it arrived in Orlando in 2011 and that the Brazilians are attempting to essentially make Orlando City a Brazilian club located in Central Florida.
While claiming that Orlando City is becoming a Brazilian club may still be a little far fetched, the board has done little to quash the rumors. During the last off-season, they hired Armando Carneiro from SL Benfica as chief soccer officer. With General Manager Paul McDonough reporting to Carneiro, it was only a matter of time before McDonough resigned. They also fired Vice President of Communications Leonardo Santiago and replaced him with Brazilian Diogo Kotscho, a friend of Designated Player, midfielder, and captain Kaká. They then split the content team from the communications team and named Brazilian Decio Lopes the team's vice president of content.They capped the Brazilian invasion by signing former Roma and Arsenal player Julio Baptista.
So when Adrian Heath was fired on July 6, it was widely speculated that a Brazilian would be brought in to replace him. Many thought that Brazilian might be Dunga, the Brazilian national team coach who was fired following the Copa America Centenario. However, the club stated that they wanted a coach who had been successful in American soccer and knew how MLS worked.
While Kreis had a rough 2015 with New York City FC, which ended in his firing after just one year at the helm, he has been one of the most successful coaches in recent years. Between 2007 and 2013, Kreis coached Real Salt Lake to great heights despite not having any marquee signings. In 2009, Kreis led his team to an MLS Cup triumph. Over the next four years, RSL would finish in second in the Western Conference three times and third once. Each year they made it at least to the Western Conference semifinals and were runners up in 2013, losing on penalties to Sporting Kansas City. Internationally, they finished as runners up in the 2010 CONCACAF Champions League, the only MLS team to reach the final of that tournament at that point.
For most MLS teams, the hiring of Kreis would be an obvious one and would not be a surprise. But for Orlando City, with the moves that have been made over the past year, the hiring is a statement. It's a statement that, while multiple Brazilians have been brought in and the club continues to promote themselves to Brazilians, in addition to Americans and the English, this is not going to be an entirely Brazilian operation.
There are still Orlando City fans that are skeptical of da Silva and Leitao and, for many reasons, they have a right to be so. But with this hiring, the Orlando City board has shown that this is still an American club that is marketing itself in Brazil rather than a Brazilian club located in America.