(Photo by Victor Tan / New Day Review)
ORLANDO, Fla. – In the 2017 season, Orlando City SC has jumped out to its best start in the club’s Major League Soccer history. Though, a two-game losing streak on the road, highlighted by a 4-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo on May 6, has slowed the momentum of the 6-3-0 Lions. Now, the next step for second-year head coach Jason Kreis and his squad is translating the emotion of losing into results.
“We saw some anger. We saw some real, grave disappointment on the players’ faces in the locker room,” Kreis said after training Wednesday. “Us as a coaching staff, we were angry and disappointed. And all that’s the emotion that go into losing, no matter the score, because I saw a lot of the same things [after a 2-1 loss to Toronto FC] actually. So, I think that’s an important part of the process.
“No. 1, you need to have players that feel really disappointed and take ownership of results like that. Then, No. 2, you need to move forward from that and show that we’re all experienced and of the right mindset to be able to do that.”
First-year Lion Giles Barnes followed suit, saying it wasn’t the coaches’ faults for the losses; rather, these were the responsibilities for the players.
“I think the coaches do great here to prepare us and get us ready for all that, so, the end of the day, we have to take it on the chin, and we accept the responsibility,” Barnes said after training Wednesday. “It’s not on the coaches—it’s on us—to go out there and perform. We didn’t, so we need to make that right on Saturday.”
How fortuitous it is for the Lions, too, that they will return to Orlando City Stadium for their next match after suffering the team’s worst loss since losing to FC Dallas 4-0 on July 4, 2016. For Kreis, the situation is “ideal,” as the Lions are so far undefeated at home, tallying five wins and three clean sheets in their new venue.
“I think it’s ideal to be in front of our fans in our stadium with an opportunity to set the record straight, I think,” Kreis said. “[W]e need to hit the reset button. But before we hit the reset button, I think that it’s important that we take ownership of that performance… [W]hile we’re very happy with where we’re at right now, being 6-3, we can’t be content, we can’t be complacent.
“And I felt like the first half against Toronto and the majority of the match against Houston, there was an air of complacency in the group. And that cannot be us. So now it’s fully on us to show that that was a blip in the road. To take ownership of it and to move forward.”
Saturday’s home bout against Sporting Kansas City will not only be a chance for City to respond to its first multi-game losing streak this season, but it also marks the beginning of another three-game stretch in eight days. After hosting Kansas City, the Lions travel to face the San Jose Earthquakes on May 17 and return home to host New York City FC on May 21.
For Kreis, he harkens back to his team’s energy and fitness levels as keys to coming out with results in the upcoming stretch.
“Again, I think a lot of it, for me, has to do with energy levels and fitness levels,” he said. “Being there was the first time that we had to do it this year. I expected there would be some extra fatigue, in particular, in a couple positions, I think there was more fatigue than others… So I think that that’s something that we need to be mindful of as we go further.”
As for midfielder Antonio Nocerino, he has one message for anyone who’s fretting over the team’s two most recent losses: “Relax.”
“Is a 10 games, guys. Relax,” Nocerino said after training Wednesday. “Two in the table. Second in the table. 18 point. You remember last year. Relax. The horse is a look in the finish. No problem.”
City’s match against Kansas City starts at 7 p.m.
Follow Victor Tan on Twitter at @NDR_VictorTan.