To say that Sunday’s loss to New York City FC was rough would be a tremendous understatement. Everything that could have gone wrong, did. The penalty on Kaká, the missed shots on goal, the penalty clanged off the bar by Cyle Larin. It all culminated in a miserable outing at Orlando City Stadium for the home side.
This game is a nadir of this past month’s results, with losses in Toronto and Houston and draws against Sporting Kansas City and San Jose. The team looks like a ghost of itself from just one month ago, when the Lions were the best team in MLS. A few midweek games and tough opponents have contributed to that, but that’s no excuse for Head Coach Jason Kreis.
After the game on Sunday, Kreis had preached the importance of staying even keel.
“I think that we have to stay level-headed,” Kreis said. “I think that when we were 6-1-0, clearly we could have been feeling a lot better about ourselves than we were. We tried to stay grounded then. After every single win we talked about the improvements we need to make and so after the loss we stay the same. We’re not going to go into a shell or believe we’re the worst team in the league or that we’re in some very, very bad spot. We still need to improve. We still need to work hard every week. And we need to do our best to prepare ourselves for next week’s game.”
Since the beginning of this season, Kreis and the team have preached one word over all: together. The team plays together, believes in one another, and treats each game with importance. Over the last few matches, however, it’s looked much like the opposite. Specifically in the NYCFC match, there were multiple instances when players seemed out of it at times and with the scoreline the way it was for most of the game, a lot of visible frustration brewed on the field.
As they head to Minnesota for their next game, the Lions need to take a step back and remind themselves what made them successful in the first seven games of the season. The week in between the games will help the physical toll the month of May has taken, but the importance of this coming week will be to mend the mental toll this month has taken on the players.
Jonathan Spector said it best after Sunday, saying, “It’s back to the training pitch, working hard and continuing to do what we believe in and what has gotten us results in previous games. Just that belief in what we are doing as a group and I think the results will change.”
The typical MLS season is a very cyclical one, with a lot of ups and downs. Hopefully the Saturday game in Minnesota is the beginning of a positive trend back into the win column.