Jason Kreis presided over his first Orlando City practice today at the team’s Sylvan Lake Park training facility and met with reporters between meeting with his players and getting them out on the pitch for the first time. As he spoke to the assembled media, Kreis painted a picture of a coach who is excited to get started with his new team, is getting all the right feedback from the right people, and perhaps most importantly, has assurances that he and his assistants will be involved in personnel decisions.
Kreis has met with his new charges twice as a group, in addition to each player individually and said that so far everything has gone well.
"The first meeting with the team was last week. We talked about just kind of what it’s going to mean to be an Orlando City player and how we want to represent ourselves," he said. "I thought it was really well received. This morning’s meeting was all about tactics and I gave them a general overview of how we want to play and how we’ll see the game going forward. It was great. It was what I want in those meetings. There was some interaction and some questions, and hopefully we have some clarity. It’s obviously a meeting. Now the training begins to put into effect all those things."
Because of the All-Star Game, discussions with Kaká and Cyle Larin took place last Thursday rather than yesterday, when Kreis and his staff met with most of the players. He said his captain is exactly the way he expected.
"Very good meeting with him," Kreis said of his sit-down with the Brazilian. "He represents himself as what I believe he is, which is a top class professional and a leader of this group."
When asked whether he’s on board with players like Kaká and Kevin Molino saying they believe the team will still make the playoffs this season, Kreis was very supportive.
"We want positivity and we want confidence and we want players that believe," he said. "I also believe but I’m just not willing to make any promises about that because for me there’s two objectives happening here. There’s a short-term objective, which is to try to do everything we can to make the playoffs. There’s a longer-term objective to put the club right, put the team right for a long time to come."
Over the weekend, while Orlando City was in the process of drawing at Columbus, 2-2, Kreis watched his new team carefully on television.
"I saw a group that played two different games," said the new gaffer. "There was two different matches happening for me there. There was what happened in the first 45 minutes and what happened in the second 45 minutes. The first 45 minutes we need to digest and analyze. We’ve got some feedback to the players already. And the second 45 minutes we need to say ‘this is the group that we want to work with. This is the group that we need to have for the rest of the season and moving forward.’"
All new coaches tend to say all the right things at the start of their tenure, but Kreis gives you a feeling that he’s not only very pleased with what he’s learned about the club and its leadership, but also that he’s been given some very specific assurances that will allow him to enjoy the same kind of success he enjoyed at Real Salt Lake. He hinted that front office differences were night and day between Orlando and his previous stop, New York City FC.
"The evaluation as it is right now is that I’m very excited about this opportunity," he said. "To me (Orlando City) represents -- it could represent, it will represent over time -- the absolute ideal MLS club. This is an open book. They are open to the philosophies that I would like to bring and us as a coaching staff, the way we view the game, is very similar I believe to what the ownership and the leadership would like to view it as well.
"I believe that the coaching staff is going to have a big role in the decision process for the players coming in. We are going to be doing it very collaboratively. So I want to say very clearly it is not a situation where it is my way or the highway. That’s not how I like to work. I like to work collaboratively with the entire coaching staff, with Phil, with the ownership, with the general manager, Niki Budalic as well. So we will make decisions collectively."
Kreis also said that the team could still make some additional moves this transfer window but warned that he and the club would be cautious and had no interest in rushing into any personnel decision that could negatively affect the team in the long term.