Former New York City FC boss Jason Kreis will be reunited with his old club this Sunday when NYC visits Camping World Stadium for a showdown with Orlando City. The match-up carries with it a storyline of revenge as Kreis looks to pay his old club back after an unceremonious dismissal, but the new Orlando City head coach isn't getting caught up in that line of thinking.
"For me it's any other game," Kreis told media following Wednesday night's 2-1 loss to Toronto FC. "I don't have any love for the club or fond memories, so it's just any other game."
While it's fair to take him at his word, Kreis' "no love" comment is evidence of at least a little bit of underlying animosity that could yet provide the coach with some extra motivation for Sunday's tilt, as it furthers some comments he made back in July about the short leash that he was kept on by NYCFC management.
"I think that the most honest way to say it is that I feel that we were given a job to do and we were allowed to do half of it," Kreis said. "I thought that we had made ourselves extremely clear, that to work with an expansion team, to be starting a team from absolutely nothing — there was no team there before, there was no youth academy, there was no second team, there was no training facility, there's no stadium. There was literally nothing."
By now, Lions fans are familiar with the details of Kreis' dismissal from New York, having finished 2015 with a 10-17-7 mark and 12 points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite only one expansion team (Seattle, '09) making the postseason in its inaugural year since the turn of the century, Kreis was axed after just one season in which he was saddled with an old, slow midfielder he reportedly didn't want (Andrea Pirlo), and another (Frank Lampard) who was commandeered by NYC's parent club, Manchester City, for much of the season, among other issues such as a papier-mâché defense.
Kreis wasn't allowed to operate the way he wanted and he may have been dumped irrationally early, but NYCFC now finds itself near the top of the Eastern Conference table and almost certainly in the postseason in Year 1 of Patrick Vieira's reign, so the Sky Blues are understandably downplaying this weekend's match against their old manager. And while Kreis may still have some bitter feelings toward his old employer, nothing about those feelings makes Orlando City's current playoff battle any more pressing than the need for three points, with the Lions sitting one spot out of the postseason behind D.C. United and just ahead of New England.
So, it may not be just "any other game," but that isn't because of Kreis' relationship (or lack thereof) with NYC. It's because his new team badly needs a win to keep its postseason hopes alive, and that win needs to come against one of the conference's best sides.