If there’s one thing Orlando City SC can play for, it’s getting a win one last time in the place where it all began. On Sunday, the Lions will face off against D.C. United in their final game in Camping World Stadium after playing two Major League Soccer seasons there.
“I’ll only be able to say [how I feel] after the game because, for now, I’m not even thinking about it,” City right-back Rafael Ramos said after training Wednesday. “I’m just thinking about the game, and I want to play one more game until the last of the season, and I want it to be a win, to finish the season in a good way.”
For Ramos, this will be his second game back with the team since injuring his hamstring in late June. He played in the team’s 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Oct. 16.
“It was a great feeling to walk out on the field with those guys again. I’ve been waiting for that moment for the past four months, so it was great,” Ramos said.
As for the coaching staff, the weeks following the team’s loss to the Montreal Impact—that eliminated them from playoff contention—has been about evaluating players for offseason moves. City head coach Jason Kreis said after the loss to Montreal that he wants to give every player a fair chance to be critically evaluated. Since losing to the New York Red Bulls II, Orlando City B players have joined the first team for training.
“I think I’ve got a real firm evaluation on all the players,” Kreis said. “I don’t think there’s any player in the first team that hasn’t played a first-team match, been involved in an A-team [game] or played full matches for the B team. So we use all of those things, as well as the training sessions to evaluate the players. It’s not always about the starting lineup or coming into an MLS game. It’s what you do every single day that matters.”
Whether Ramos is the best right-back for the team next year, he says that’s not his place to decide.
“That’s the coach that has to say that,” Ramos said. “I’ll try to do my best, and I’ll try to prove him that I am, but he decides.”
On his performance against Philadelphia: “I tried to do my best. Sometimes it doesn’t go the way that you want to, but I fee like, yes, most of the things went the way that I wanted to. So, think I proved my point in that I’m here to the coach.”
The team’s season-finale is also a last opportunity for players to prove themselves to Kreis and his staff. For him and team captain Ricardo Kaká, it’s important that the players that are with the team next year are players that have the mentality to win. Kaká said after the loss to Montreal and again after training on Thursday that the Lions’ priority is in the team’s mentality.
“I think the most important change that we need for the next season is our mentality,” Kaká said. “So we need to have a winning mentality, and this changes a lot of things. It’s different when I want to just win and when I want to sacrifice something for winning. So this is what I expect for the next season—for the players, for the staff—that we really want to sacrifice something for our targets.”
To spark that mentality change, Kaká believes it necessary to instigate more internal competition.
“In my opinion, the club needs to put some targets, some goals for the team,” the 34-year-old said. “And the coach to put some goals, put some inside competition… And when we are ready to challenge ourselves, we are good and ready to challenge the others.”
Kreis is looking for players that are intrinsically motivated to play for this team.
“I’m not really too concerned about extra pressure or extra motivation,” Kreis said. “Like I said, if that sort of motivation isn’t intrinsic in the player, then we need to remove them. We need to be looking for other players that have that motivation intrinsically in them.”
This season, the Lions have lost their only game to D.C. United by a score of 4-1 on Sept. 24.
Kickoff at Camping World Stadium is set for 4 p.m.