March 29, 2017 at Sylvan Lake Park

Availability: HC Jason Kreis, F Giles Barnes, DF José Aja

HC Jason Kreis

Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin has been rumored to be drawing offers from clubs like Nottingham Forest FC and Everton FC. Kreis was quick to shut down those speculations.

From my point of view, it’s interesting ‘cus I have the inside information, which tells you that it’s clearly just speculation. There’s been nobody come to us with any offers. There’s been nothing formal, and, so, for us, it’s clearly just that: a lot of talk. For Cyle, I would say that it’s a good thing. He’s playing well. He’s been noticed for it. People are paying attention, and I think that’s a great thing—not just for Cyle but for everyone involved in the league. Because, ultimately, all of the players, I think probably, at some stage of their career would like to play in Europe in a bigger stage and for a lot more money. So, if he keeps doing well, I would say, “Yes, the opportunity would be there.” But at the end of the day, it has to be the right thing for everybody involved, and everybody involved includes Orlando City.

In the 2017 season, Larin has played up top with Carlos Rivas. In previous seasons, Larin had been used as the lone top man in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Speaking as somebody who’s done a fair amount of scouting in the past to look for players, it’s nice to see the players play in tactical shapes. It gives you a better idea if they fit into the one that you’re trying to play, so sure.

Before Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies for Orlando City B, nine Major League Soccer players were sent to OCB on season-long loans by the club’s MLS side.

To me, it’s critical. I think everybody puts a different level of importance on such things as camaraderie and teamwork, togetherness. For me and for this club and for the staff, it’s something that we think is very important. We talked a lot about it during the offseason and during the preseason about trying to have a group of players that was more tight-knit and that we’d do anything for each other. I’ve always felt in this league that it’s not the teams that have black and white the most talent. It’s the team that has the most grey and the most togetherness that oftentimes that wins in this league.

Orlando City has dealt with a plethora of injuries so far this season, specifically to the team’s outside-back positions. Team captain Ricardo Kaká has also been out since the first match of the season.

All of them are coming along well. Tony Rocha’s the one that’s on the field and been training with us for a week, and he’s just had a little bit of soreness today, so he wasn’t involved today. But he’s still moving forward, and I believe that the rest are moving forward as well. I haven’t heard about any setbacks, so we have timelines in play. So we’re sticking to those and feeling like we should be getting all of those players back within a short period of time.

Despite having a plethora of new players and new leaders on the team, Kreis doesn’t see a change in how the team is preparing for its first away match.

I don’t think so. I think that we’re always gonna have a particular focus and a particular objective that we’re gonna go into every road game and game plan, so to speak. I do think that probably doesn’t change our preparation, but perhaps it’ll change the performance, meaning can the players understand and deliver what the game plan is? And then it’s a question of was the game plan the right choice? So, I would think that with the number of veteran players and leaders that we have now in the group, we’ve got a higher level of comprehension about what we want to do.

Orlando City faces off against Columbus Crew SC on Saturday at 4 p.m. in City’s first away match of the season.

It’s a very, very good team. We’ve known this now. This is the third year, and I feel like it’s one of the better teams in the league. They’re very creative, very dynamic, very possession-oriented. Create a lot of goal-scoring chances, and so it’s a massive challenge for us. But I think it comes at the right time ‘cus I think that we are a team that has some confidence of our own that has established a little bit of a rhythm right now and a little bit of confidence. And I think that we’re ready for it.

Rivas has been an integral part of the Lions’ offense to start the season. He has so far started the first two matches of the season and figured prominently throughout Orlando City’s preseason plans.

I think he’s growing. I think he’s a young player, and he’s growing as a professional. I think that he’s really embracing now what’s being asked of him and trying to do that. But I honestly could tell you that from the moment I came in, I felt he was somebody that was willing to really do anything that we ask the majority of the time. And so when he does the things that we ask, I think he can bring a lot of useful tools to our team. He’s done a great job of that so far this season. I’m loving to get his goal ‘cus he deserves a goal, so far, in my opinion, and hopefully it’ll come this weekend.

Orlando City will play five games in the month of April. That’s followed by seven games in May.

I mean, five games in a month isn’t so bad. It’ll be May, I think, where we get some real schedule congestion, or I’m not sure if it’s right after the last week of April where there’s gonna be quite a bit of schedule congestion. And that’s where we’re gonna have to talk about a lot of rotation. And we have to have the requisite number of players that we believe can perform in big games, and I think we’re getting there. So, we’re hopefully moving ourselves into a direction where we have a lot of guys that we can rely on to perform. That’s what you need when you play in this league, and you have lots of games in a week.

I think it’s a rhythm question. I think as a coach, you’re always a little bit nervous about how your team’s gonna respond when they’ve had an off weekend. But I think responded fantastically that last time we had an off weekend. And the training sessions have been good. I haven’t seen a lack of rhythm. I haven’t seen a lack of really anything. So I would suspect that we will be ready to perform this weekend, and once we start playing a game every week, that’s what the team needs.

Defender Scott Sutter joined the club for his first training session on March 21.

Coming along very well. Coming along very well. Again, sort of speaking more from a character point of view and a team-building point of view, he’s an absolutely fantastic fit just as Giles was when he came in. It was just a seamless integration, really. And, now, from a tactical point of view, I think it’s gonna take a little bit of time, but he’s an intelligent player that’s played in a lot of different places. So, I don’t see it being too difficult.

Orlando City is 2-0-0 with six points to start the season.

I put nothing in that actually. Absolutely nothing in that. To me, it’s almost like, “Oh, we’re 1-0. We’re perfect.” We’re just 2-0. There’s a lot left in the season, and we’ve gotta handle this thing game by game and just worry about the game on the weekend, and that’s it.

For Kreis, he’d rather have more leaders on the team than too few.

I really don’t. Speaking from my playing experience to tell you that I’d rather have more guys out there talking than less. And also from the ultimate leader of the team, that’s what I like. I’d rather come in and say, “No, actually, you’re saying the wrong thing. This is the right thing to be saying,” than trying to get somebody to speak.

F Giles Barnes

 Columbus is 2-1-1 with seven points through four games so far.

Yeah, they’re a confident team. They like to possess the ball. Got good ballplayers over the pitch, but we feel we’ve been doing everything correctly in our games. There’s always room for improvement, which is what we are striving to do every day on the training pitch. And we’re confident going into the weekend.

On Saturday, the Lions played in a closed-door friendly against the University of Central Florida.

The boss gave us a behind-closed-doors game to keep us fresh, keep us ticking over, keep the mind sharp. He’s done really well with that. As I said, the boys have been firing in training. We get a good four days of practice and then obviously take it into the game on Saturday.

When asked about Rivas, Barnes praised the Colombian.

For his height, he’s a big, powerful boy. Very quick. Likes to play off-the-cuff as well. You know, puts defenders on their back foot. The combinations that him and Cyle have been doing have both been working hard, and that’s where I think it’s come from. Cyle’s a lot fitter this year than he was last year. I feel Rivas is getting there as well. He’s got a lot fitter over the last few weeks. And I think that hard work’s just paying off. And then to come together, it’s looking really good, and it’s very promising for us.

For Barnes, it’s about always learning both on and off the pitch.

Every single day, you try to come out and learn, no matter how old you get. So, you know, learning with my teammates and practicing with them day in, day out, I’m sure I’ll still be learning off of people for the next five, 10 years. Well, maybe not 10 years. It’s a learning process every day, and as long as I keep learning, I’m gonna keep progressing. But the main thing is that the team keeps on progressing and going forward.

Barnes may be considered the joker of the group.

I feel the boys would probably tell you I’m the one that’s probably throwing a bit more of the jokes in the change room and that. But it’s been really good. Everyone’s fantastic here. As I said from Day 1, they made me feel at home, and…it’s just continued.

Orlando City travels to play Columbus on Saturday and will host the New York Red Bulls on April 9.

Keep winning. Keep working hard. Obviously, we’ve had the two games. We can’t rest on our morales. We’ve gotta keep on progressing, you know. There’s gonna be blips throughout the season, but it’s how you recover. And that’s something that the boss keeps on installing in us. There’s gonna be blips, there’s gonna be other things that go against you, but as long as we keep working hard, we’re gonna get the results that we deserve.

For Barnes, keeping good competition helps keep players in check.

Competition’s always good. It keeps everyone on their toes. It keeps everyone firing in training. No one can just sit and take a day off. So, it’s good. As I said, the group’s full of fantastic players.

No matter if it’s a home or away match, Barnes believes it’s best to approach every match the same.

To be honest, I think you should approach every single game with exactly the same manner, whether you’re at home or away. The objective is still to get three points. So, by any means necessary, you’re not always going to win pretty. As I said, it’s gonna go to hard work. There’s a saying, “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” So, that’s what you’re gonna need throughout the season.

Kaká went down with an injury in the 11th minute of the 1-0 win over New York City FC.

It’s Ricky at the end of the day. He’s a former Ballon d’Or winner. I just try to go out there and play my game and contribute in ways that I feel like I can contribute. You know, go out there, work hard and play my game, and, you know, hopefully, everyone’s seeing that.

When asked how the team has improved, Barnes said it has been about possession.

Obviously, I thought the first game we didn’t really possess the ball as well as we should have. I thought, definitely, we corrected that in the second game. And, as I said, out here in training, every single day, the boss is focusing on working hard, the press. And then, obviously, keeping the ball. That will give us our chances going forward.

Columbus has so far played in four games while Orlando City has played in just two.

No, not at all. At the end of the day, it’s 11-v-11. We’re gonna prepare exactly as if we played four games as well. Maybe we’ve got the edge ‘cus we’re a little bit fresher. But, you know, it’s gonna be a good game on Saturday.

Barnes isn’t concerned about having too many leaders on the team.

Everyone has their own personality. Everyone’s got their own different ways of leading the team, and I think that’s the great thing about this squad here. It all comes together and merges as one.

DF José Aja

Last season against the Crew, Orlando City finished 0-1-1.

Columbus has been rising and been performing very well lately. They have a great squad. They built a great squad in the offseason, and they’ve been performing well defensively and offensively, but we’ve been preparing for that, and I think we’re ready for that game.

We have to try defensively to continue our intensity and how we’ve done [in] previous games. And also make sure that we finish the chances that we do offensively.

In the five-game stretch in April, Orlando City will play Columbus, the Red Bulls, the Los Angeles Galaxy, New York City FC and the Colorado Rapids.

Yeah, I know it’s gonna be a very difficult month for us. We knew ahead that April was gonna be very busy for us, but we’ve been preparing physically for that, and I hope that we can get the results. But it’s gonna be a good challenge for us.

Sutter played at right-back during Wednesday’s training session, putting Will Johnson in the midfield again.

We know that the back-line has been changing. And there’re some players being integrated into the team. We know that Scott can play as right-back, and he’s been adjusting well to the team, and Will can play as a holding midfielder as well. But I think that we have enough depth and enough quality in the team to make sure that we get good results every game.

For Aja, preparation for an away game is the same as last season.

We’re preparing the same always. Same preparation as last year. We focus on our physical status, and we’re just focusing on getting the results. It doesn’t really change anything for us.

Aja said Rivas can be a decisive player on the pitch for Orlando City.

Carlos is an excellent player. He’s a fundamental weapon for us. We know that he’s been growing a lot, and if he’s physically and mentally prepared and fit, we know that he can be a decisive player on the field for us.