Orlando City fired Head Coach Jason Kreis on June 15, leaving the club in search of a new coach to lead its roster. Club CEO Alex Leitão held a press conference before Saturday night’s game to address the firing of Kreis and the process of finding his replacement. During the press conference, Leitão made some comments that indicated it may be difficult to find the club a long-term solution.
Including Saturday night’s 2-0 loss to the Montreal Impact, Orlando City has now lost seven consecutive league games, dropping the Lions below the red line. With Kreis being fired in the middle of the season and the team in the midst of its worst losing streak in club history, many consider the season lost.
Despite the pessimism among the fan base and media, Leitão insisted that the club is looking to win now with its upcoming hire. Also, despite the fact that the club has consistently regressed each season and there appears to be great instability at the club from the first team to the academy, Leitão stated that it is a “very, very desirable club.”
“We had hundreds of candidates of coaches interested in coming in to coach this club,” the CEO said. That’s an interesting claim, considering that the first two coaches in the club’s MLS history were given less than two years before their ousting. But surprisingly, that’s not the most questionable thing Leitão said during the press conference.
When head coaches enter a new organization, they like to have a certain amount of control. They have a certain style of play that they want to instill and want to have a say on what players best fit that style. However, Leitão seemed to indicate that the new head coach will have little say on the roster, which could create a problem bringing in a quality coach or keeping them for the long term.
“We’ve been telling all the candidates this is not a rebuild process,” Leitão said during the press conference. “This is a group of players that we believe in. We believe they are very, very strong and they have to come here understanding that this is the group of players that they’re going to have to coach.”
According to Orlando City General Manager Niki Budalic during an interview on LionNation, the acquisition of players is one that includes input from the head coach. This past off-season, Orlando City saw what Kreis called “wholesale changes” to the team. If what Budalic said is true, that means that Kreis had at least some input on the acquisition of those players. The acquisitions were probably made with the mindset that each player would fit within Kreis’ system.
Regardless of who is hired as the new head coach, they will have at least a slightly different system than Kreis and a different idea of which players should fit in that system. Leitão’s statement seemed to indicate that he and Budalic had built a roster that they want to see on the field and the new coach will have to deal with it.
If this is, in fact, the situation, it’s hard to believe that any highly qualified coach would be satisfied with such a scenario. While it may be fine in what appears to be another season with the Lions finishing near the bottom of the conference, it won’t be fine this winter. If this is a team that the front office plans on being the nucleus of the club in future years, it will likely end with the coach resigning or being fired quicker than his predecessors.
While it was expected that we would learn more about why Kreis was fired in the middle of the season or more on the process of hiring a new coach, very little was learned during the press conference. It seemed to be a way for Leitão to state that the club had not given up on the 2018 season and has belief in the current roster. However, if everything he said was accurate, it appears that the core of Orlando City is in place for future seasons, which may not sit well with an experienced coach. The result could be yet another coaching change in the near future.