On Friday, Orlando City let go of manager Jason Kreis amidst a six-game losing streak. I’m not going to get into why I believe this is wrong or what I believe to be a mismanagement of long-term planning and understanding of circumstance.
The fact is Orlando should be a sought after position. If you look at just what is at the disposal of the manager, this is a talented team that should make the playoffs and maybe do even more damage beyond that. There’s a great balance of current MLS stars — Sacha Kljestan, Dom Dwyer, and Justin Meram — alongside some nice young pieces like Josué Colmán and Chris Meuller.
At this point, all we can do is look forward, stay positive, and hope CEO Alex Leitão and GM Niki Budalic find the right person for the job. So I thought I would help break down the available candidates — likely and unlikely — that could take over the Lions for the last two-thirds of the season.
The U.S. Connection
Quite a few options exist among the U.S. National Team system. With uncertainty in the national team system, some names could be looking a more permanent job.
Orlando City has never shied away from a big name signing. And I do think there would be a bit of solid irony that the management, who have made some unpopular decisions, would hire one of the most unpopular managers in America right now.
But the fact is Bruce has plenty of pedigree and history in MLS and could be looking for a way to get his rep back up. Taking Orlando to the playoffs and having this community wrap around him would be exactly what he needs.
Likelihood: Very unlikely.
This is a name that intrigues me. Tab Ramos has been one of the staples of the U.S. system managing the U.S. U-20s since 2011. While he may get play in the discussion for first team manager, I haven't seen any strong consensus that he’ll be tapped for the position.
If he’s looking to take on a full-time MLS position, Orlando would be wise to reach out to him. I’m primarily intrigued because of his history as technical director in the youth system and he could help City create a true connected pyramid. Not to mention he would be great to work with youngsters like Colmán and Meuller.
Likelihood: Not likely.
Arena falls under this category as well, with stints at New York Red Bulls and LA Galaxy. He knows how to work the league’s roster rules to perfection, as evidenced by his ability in LA to get DP-level players at less-than-DP contracts.
One of the flashiest names on people’s list will be the man that led Portland to the MLS Cup championship in 2015. Porter left Portland at the end of last season and most have been wondering what will be the next step for a man that — at one point — was the hottest young coach in the country.
Some of that buzz has certainly worn off but he will get another opportunity in MLS. Honestly I think he lost a bit of what he was great at when he was dominating college soccer at Akron with changing his style to the MLS game. But he has the acumen to work with this group that plays a possession-oriented style.
Again, a big name that Orlando will most likely not shy away from in discussions.
Likelihood: Definitely on the table. But ultimately I think not.
The Other Candidates
A familiar face should get a lot of play in the search for the next manager. James O’Connor has been one of the best managers in the USL with Louisville City over the past few years. Since entering the USL, Louisville has accumulated more points, goals and assists than any other club. Culminating in a USL Championship in 2017.
If Orlando is looking for a name that the fan base will embrace, this may be the best option. Not to mention that O’Connor’s teams have played with an exciting, fast-paced attack that this team could play very effectively.
The only question here is if the organization, known for splashy moves, would be ok with a basically unknown quantity in the former USL Orlando midfielder. Not to mention that he's only six years older than Sacha Kljestan which could lead management to be worried he’s too young for the role.
Likelihood: I think a good chance. Call it 40%.
Guillermo Barros Schelotto
This is the candidate I want. I’m not shying away from it. For those that aren’t #SaveTheCrew fans, he was one of the best players in MLS when he won the 2008 MLS MVP with the Columbus Crew. The Argentinian national has been coaching with one of the most storied clubs in history, Boca Juniors, leading them to consecutive Primera championships the past two seasons.
He is on the record that one day he would like to manage in MLS one day. While it might be soon for him to move away, his experience both in coaching one of the best clubs in the world and playing in MLS would be a huge coup for City.
If I’m Orlando I’m going all-in on a man I think could also help in identifying young South American talent that could flourish in the league.
Likelihood: No idea. Probably unlikely. I hope I’m wrong.
Marc Dos Santos
Marc Dos Santos, who has coached three separate lower-division teams to North American title matches in as many seasons, should be high the list. Currently an assistant to Bob Bradley at LAFC, Dos Santos should be on the shortlist.
Dos Santos coached the expansion San Francisco Deltas to the NASL Soccer Bowl title in 2017. He also led Swope Park Rangers (also in their first season) to the 2016 USL Cup final, after taking the Ottawa Fury (now in USL) to the NASL championship match in 2015. He also led the Montreal Impact (now in MLS) to the USL title in 2009.
From a 2016 FourFourTwo article:
His approach is unique. Dos Santos said he focuses his model around four key segments of the game: defensive and offensive organization and defensive and offensive transition. Everything in training revolves around how he wants his teams to react in those moments. Swope Park tends to play in a deeper defensive block, then break out with quick counter-attacking play through the wings with an emphasis on keeping the ball. The style of play is honed with repetition.
I’d love the concept of this. I think this fits exactly what Orlando needs. As for whether LAFC will let him go, I have no idea. But he shouldn't be ignored in this process.
There’s so many names I could probably write this article three times over. Names like Marco Bielsa, Tony Pulis, Richie Williams, Dave Sarachan, Alessandro Nesta, and even Didier Deschamps have all been floated around. To get a pulse on what Orlando City will do is nearly impossible. Will the club go for a big name? Probably. Will the Lions look for someone that has more youth ties? Probably not, although they should.
One thing we do know is Orlando City needs a manager ASAP. Kreis wasn't the only loss with two of his assistants leaving as well. Bobby Murphy will have his hands full with a team that has underperformed these last six matches and has the microscope on it more than ever before. A manager needs to be found quickly if City is to hope to keep in the playoff picture.
Hopefully we won’t be waiting too long — or the damage won’t be too bad — before they find the man in charge.