The MLS preseason always gives you a good feeling on where your team stands, even when most of their opponents don’t offer much resistance. Orlando City had its first preseason game against Jacksonville University and won, 5-0. To the day-to-day fans, this was expected as we know the strength and names that represent the Lions.
But, what about fans of the rest of MLS? This is an outsider point of view on how these Lions will give you a headache either when they play away or when your team has to come to the Lions’ den. These are my top three reasons why Orlando City SC will be a top performer this season during the third top-flight season for the franchise.
We Have Our Own House
Last season, Orlando City played its home games at Camping World Stadium, which seats about 64,000 and had a great environment to play in. However, there’s nothing like being in your true home, and this season it will happen, as the new stadium will be ready to host the games this season. The Wall is ready to cheer for our team every minute of the game.
The stadium doesn’t hold as many people as CWS, but it’s ours and this is key in soccer. I’ve seen many games where the crowd support has motivated the team to victory. The stadium build puts fans closer to the field, so this creates another feeling during the games, and the fans have been waiting for this; they are ready to make the stadium a fortress against visiting teams.
It should be a great push in the home games for our team. The crowd has been waiting for this moment since the franchise was approved for MLS competition, and their passion will be on full display.
This summer was the time for the front office and Head Coach Jason Kreis to tune up the roster for the upcoming season. After missing out on the playoffs by only a few points total over the last two seasons, this preseason’s goal was to work on the details.
The team needed more leadership on each line to support and build from what it already had. During this preseason, some of the players that are joining the Lions are: Will Johnson (from Toronto FC, played with Kreis at RSL), Josh Saunders (from NYCFC), Jonathan Spector (Birmingham), and Pierre Da Silva (from OCB), to name a few. And also don’t forget about our captain, Kaká, who is really involved in the organization as a whole. The point here is that the upgrades on the roster are great from a leadership perspective. And the other great part, from my point of view, is the combination of experience added with younger players that want to show that they can play at the top level in MLS.
Jason Kreis’ Experience with Expansion Clubs
Something that is always great to have in any team is a coach with a record to prove that their methods will work. Someone that can take the pressure off the players when rough times hit. Kreis has all of this, with recognition since his start-up days in Dallas as a cornerstone for the franchise.
His last three seasons as a player, he played with Real Salt Lake, the early years of the franchise in Salt Lake City. After announcing his retirement in 2007, he began his coaching career, taking over a team that had little to no luck in the beginning. Since he took over midway into the season, the team improved but not to the extent he wanted to. By 2008, and with a preseason under his belt, RSL made it to its first postseason. The team showed more signs of what Kreis wanted for his team, but everything was improved by 2009 by the MLS Cup Final against LA Galaxy, which was decided by penalty kicks.
After this experience and the last final lost, he announced his departure to New York City FC as the first coach of the new franchise in MLS. The objectives were not met during his short time at NYC, and he was sacked as head coach. What you need to know about Kreis is that he has a winning attitude and, although it may take a few months for his players to acclimate, at RSL that time made the franchise change its mentality.
In summary, Orlando City has the perfect combination to make its first playoff run. It has the correct pieces to start making history for the Orlando fans: A stadium in place, players that want to make some noise in the league, and a coach with experience in managing different groups. Remember these points if you are visiting our stadium, or facing our players and coaches on your turf — we are ready to make it happen this year.