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Orlando City Must Be Prepared to Impress New Head Coach

The boys in purple have been handed a clean slate as the search for Orlando City SC’s new head coach continues.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It was just a week ago today that former Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis was handed his pink slip as the club’s brass made the decision to part ways with its second-ever MLS coach following a six-match losing streak in league play. Bobby Murphy has been given the nod to serve as interim head coach until a new appointment is made.

The move was a godsend to some, and baffled the rest of us. But that’s beside the point because #KreisOut is a reality and the current Lions roster should be busy preparing itself for what will come next: a new head coach to impress.

Speaking from my nonprofessional-yet-still-competitive playing experience (emphasis on nonprofessional), the introduction of a new man in charge can be an exciting proposition, or it could serve as an intimidating awakening. The players that are currently well-established and entrenched in their roles within the squad should be on high alert, and the rest of the squad should also be looking at this change as an opportunity to prove themselves once again and show that they belong on the pitch.

Essentially, the eventual lineup that’s installed by the new gaffer could feature names and faces that have faded into the background since the start of the 2018 campaign. Fringe starters, substitutions, and even those that haven’t been making match-day squads on a regular basis have all been handed a clean slate, and they’d be wise to take full advantage of having the opportunity to make a lasting first impression on Kreis’ eventual replacement.

Sure, some players will very likely remain entrenched in their current roles, and rightfully so (See: Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan, Yoshimar Yotún, and Joe Bendik). On the other hand, the remainder of the squad could be shuffled significantly, especially considering the possibility and likelihood of new formations. It will be interesting to see how the current leaders within the squad, Kljestan, Jonathan Spector, and Will Johnson, will react to the change. I foresee Kljestan perhaps taking the captain’s armband from Spector and taking the change in stride as his thoughtful and easygoing personality will likely help the new coach install his desired style of play, while his extensive playing experience will allow him to serve as a guide to the rest of the squad. I think that Kljestan will be the key to a smooth transition.

Of course, who knows how this all goes down? Maybe the new coach wants a complete overhaul, or maybe the new coach only tinkers with what’s worked for the Lions this season. The supporters and players alike have no inkling of what sort of personality and coaching style will be headed their way.

What’s It Like?

Speaking from years of bygone experience in such situations, I’ll start with this: it’s quite stressful. I had three different coaches throughout my four years of varsity soccer in high school and it was, at times, a nightmare. Just as you’ve finally felt like you’ve proven your worth to your boss, your boss is gone. Just like that. And the feeling you’re left with is, quite frankly for me, a bit of anxiety.

“What’s next? I have to prove myself to a new guy? Sheesh, not again.”

For me, there were several things that I kept in mind as I prepared to play under a new coach.

  • Be Yourself: Don’t go overboard in your attempts to awe your new coach. Play your game, the one you’re familiar with. This gives the new coach an honest and true perspective of what you bring to the table, and where you might be able to fit into his current or future plans.
  • Play Selflessly: Showing your new coach that you’re a team player is essential to getting your blip on his radar and keeping it there. This one is dependent on position, as strikers may want to do just the opposite to strut their prowess in front of goal. You miss every shot you don’t take, folks.
  • Abide by Established Team Rules: The Lions’ Young Designated Player, Josué Colmán, can attest to this one, as he was left out of the match-day squad that went on to record its sixth straight victory (now a club record) against Real Salt Lake, 3-1, on Sunday, May 6. He was left out of Kreis’ 18 on the day due to breaking a locker room rule. That’s an avoidable no-no, Josué... especially when the supporters want to see more of you.
  • Take Training Seriously: This one is obvious, but it’s still important to note that training should be conducted in a professional manner. The occasional joke or gag here or there is absolutely okay ( and even encouraged) when increasing the team’s overall morale, but nobody wants to play with the NBA’s Dwight Howard right now for a reason: He doesn’t take his training (or games for that matter) seriously. He actually just laughs at everything. No, seriously, everything. Foul on Howard? He’s chuckling. Allen Iverson, on the other hand, was a different story:

Please don’t be like The Answer (I still love you though, A.I.).

  • Be Open to Change: This is the big one, one that doesn’t just apply to a new soccer coach, but to life in general. Be prepared to be tested in a new position, maybe even one that you’ve never played before and feel uncomfortable in. The first time a new coach asked me how I felt about being deployed at left back, I was terrified. That coach knew exactly what he was doing, and my pace won the battle on that particular flank for the evening, which aided our team’s effort in taking all three points (I naturally play on the wing or up top). Now, I love the left back position, and I never would have known unless I was open to giving it a go. Players like Victor “PC” Giro, Mohamed El-Munir, and Chris Mueller are all quite versatile, and I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to see a new coach come in and completely shake things up in a funky way. Could El-Munir play striker? Probably not, but maybe the new coach prefers him on the wing rather than at left back.
  • Respect the Coach’s Decisions: He may be new, but he’s your boss. If you find yourself on the outside looking in, show class, be respectful, and be damned sure you’re 100% ready to enter the fray and make a positive impact if/when you’re called upon. Be humbled by being deemed “not good enough,” and use that as motivation to force your way into the fold.

For now, the supporters and players alike have to sit idly by and wait for the club’s brass and CEO Alex Leitão to make an appointment, an arduous process that could possibly, though not ideally, take days to weeks. Leitão himself said that the decision was made at this juncture intentionally, with the Lions away from MLS play so he and his management team had the time to perform their due diligence.

“As much as we understand that fans are very anxious, that we are very anxious and to give the fans as name as fast as possible, it’s very, very important to us to do it right,” Leitão said in a phone interview. “We’re not rushing. We’re not going to take too much time with process. I believe we’ll be able to announce a name next week. It’s great to know this club is a desirable club. We have interest from hundreds of people. They believe in the players we have. They believe in the fan base.”

Only time will tell what the future holds for Orlando City and the 2018 campaign. Check back in with The Mane Land for impending updates on the search and eventual appointment, and check out an in-depth analysis from our very own “Bearded Guy” as he weighs the pros and cons of the potential appointment of former Brazil National Team head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.