Jason Kreis was known to be on the hot seat, at least that would be your take if you only paid attention to the social media outlets. The rumors and conspiracy theories began to fly before Orlando City’s last match against Montreal, and only became louder after the the sixth defeat in a row. And then the news came, at just before 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon that Orlando City and Jason Kreis had agreed to part ways.
Regardless of the wording, for the second time in their short MLS history, the Lions have fired a coach mid-season. What is somewhat more troubling for some is the apparent lack of a plan following this announcement, which leaves precious matches wasted as the team sits in limbo.
A little under two years ago — on July 6, 2016 to be exact — Orlando City fired its first and only coach at the time, Adrian Heath. At that time, questions flew as to the timing of change and how it would affect the team, especially considering that the secondary transfer window for MLS had just opened. The Lions would win just five more matches in the entirety of the remainder of the 2016 season after Kreis was named coach. As reported earlier, Assistant Coach Bobby Murphy is taking over the helm again, just as he did when Heath was fired prior to Kreis’ arrival. His record with the club was 0-1-3. That’s right, zero wins, one loss, and three draws.
The team was different in 2016, at least personnel wise, than the team in front of us today. The current squad is recovering from a bout of injuries again. Dom Dwyer has just returned to the starting XI, as has captain Jonathan Spector. The team is also deep in a very difficult part of the schedule, including June containing only one home match. Orlando City has also started its U.S. Open Cup campaign, with an away trip to face DC United this Wednesday evening. So what do the next few weeks hold for Orlando City? Wasted matches.
Including Wednesdays USOC match, Orlando has three away and two home matches over the next four and a half weeks. The MLS season matches are at home to Montreal, which just beat Orlando 3-0, away to Atlanta United FC and Los Angeles Football Club, and finally, back home to face Toronto FC. These are five matches that could have a dramatic impact on the club, and not just in its position in the Eastern Conference, but in the overall mentality and personality of the club as a whole.
How exactly is change going to be effectively delivered with no apparent plan in place? Replacement of the manager typically is because a change in tactics and team chemistry is deemed necessary. With no replacement yet named, and an interim coach is asked to guide the team through a tough part of the schedule (although to be honest, everything is tough for the club right now). How effectively can you start to change anything? Is Murphy expected to be “phase 1” of the winds of change, or is he, as I believe, just there to keep things somewhat together until the final decision is made on who will be the new captain of the ship?
Once a new manager is found, how long will that transition take? It certainly will not be overnight, or happen quickly. There will be time needed to get to know players, review play, inspect and watch in training, and find the best solution that can be created with the pieces available. And, as mentioned above, the secondary transfer window will soon open, and if any additions are needed, or changes are required, this is the time to do it. The GM can’t start shopping for new pieces for the new coach until he knows what that coach is looking for.
We are staring into a void at the moment, standing on the precipice of the event horizon. What goes beyond the horizon is lost, never to be seen again. Hopefully the front office leaders at Orlando City have a plan and are simply holding their cards close to their chests, because from last Friday on, every day is a day that falls over the event horizon and is lost. Every training day, every practice, and every match stands to be wasted without a plan, and without a manager in place. Every day that ticks by stands to create more wasted time in the future, because things will need to be repeated before they can be addressed.
The timing of this event, warranted or not, may in fact end up doing more harm than good depending on how quickly the front office’s new vision can take shape.