May 19, 2017 at Sylvan Lake Park

Availability: HC Jason Kreis, MF Will Johnson, DF Scott Sutter, DF Victor “PC” Giro

HC Jason Kreis

Orlando City SC tied 1-1 with the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday.

I thought it was like it was a game where I thought like we had a quite bit more control that we have had in some of our previous matches with the ball. I felt we just looked a lot more stable than we have in some of the early games. The guys handled the game plan the right way. I think everything really went to plan until we gave away the goal on a dead ball. So that’s really the biggest point to take away from that is that those situations can be extremely costly if we’re not ready for it.

In the month of May, the Lions are 0-2-2, with their most recent results being draws against San Jose and Sporting Kansas City.

It is something we were just talking about before the session that now it’s been four games without a win. We’re very hungry for the next one. I think that’s one of the nice things about getting out to a really good start and getting those wins under your belt is that you get a real taste for it, and when you go a few games without it, you start to be real hungry for it.

Sunday’s match against New York City FC will be the third time both teams have met in the first 12 matches of the season.

It’s just a team that we’re obviously very familiar with, now, having played against them for a third time in six weeks, it seems like. Maybe a little longer than that, but it seems like a very short time to play a same team three times. So we have a very good understanding of what they’re a bout and what they’re trying to do, and they have a very good understanding of us. I think, at the end of the day, it’s gonna come down to little bit of who wants it more.

Yeah, it’s very typical in this league. The scheduling [in] this league is quirky, to say the most positive thing I can about is that it’s quirky. So, it’s not an anomaly at all, and, later in the season, we’ll play the same team back to back. So, these are just things that you have to deal with in our league, and I don’t think it’s a big thing.

With a win on Sunday, the Lions will sweep NYCFC.

Again, something I had no idea about and really not something that’s on the forefront of my mind. So, for me, it’s not about anything grander than, “It’s been four games without a win.” And it’s time for us to show a little bit more hunger to make sure that we get these three points at home.

Kreis was NYCFC’s inaugural head coach and coached the fellow 2015 expansion team in both Orlando City and NYCFC’s inaugural match at Camping World Stadium.

No doubt about it. I think both clubs are much, much improved teams and clubs, and I don’t want to say it’s natural because I don’t think it’s natural. I think it takes different clubs different amount of time to really find their footing and understand who they want to be. And I would say both clubs, I think, are a little ahead of the curve right now. If we look at the history of expansion teams coming in, I think it’s taken teams a lot longer than this to certainly find their own. And I know New York City—big credit to them because they made the playoffs in their second year as a club, and that’s not an easy thing to do. It’s taken other teams in this league eight, nine, 10 years to find the playoffs for the first time.

Kreis said he thinks his team is fresher in this stretch of three games in eight days compared to the Lions’ last stretch against the Colorado Rapids, Toronto FC and the Houston Dynamo.

I do. Yeah, I really do. And some of that is credit to being able to rotate a large number of players, to have a lot of confidence in a lot of our players, as well as the fact that our ownership stepped forward and chartered us a flight home immediately after the game at San Jose, which shows a big level of commitment from our ownership that not every club in this league is willing to do. So I feel because of that we were all home yesterday morning early, had an entire day’s rest, and the guy’s looked pretty fresh today.

Giro made his first start in Major League Soccer for Orlando City in the draw against San Jose.

I thought it was excellent. I thought he was really, really lively. Really in great spots defensively for us most of the night and got forward well. The fact that he makes the assist on the goal, I think, is really important. It continues to show a little bit about the philosophy of how we want to play that our outside back gets so far advanced and have quality in the attacking third.

Center-back Léo Pereira made his MLS debut for City on Wednesday, too.

Léo was another player I thought was a standout performer for us, which says a lot ‘cus I think that’s really difficult for a central defender to do in a central role like that against players like [Chris] Wondolowski. He showed that he’s quite capable of playing for us and contributing at this level.

For Kreis, the distinction between Orlando City B and the first team is “very grey.”

The distinction between OCB and the first team is very grey for us, so maybe it seems more clear to you guys than it is to us. We have players that are playing with both teams. We have players that are training with both teams. Obviously, anybody who’s on an MLS contract is available for us, and I think all of those players, particularly in the last game that played for OCB, did an excellent job, and all of them showed that they possibly are deserving of some minutes over the last four games in this month as well.

Since returning to action against the Rapids, Ricardo Kaká has recorded 244 minutes, three goals and an assist.

He’s an important player for us, from a character and leadership standpoint, first and foremost. All of the players look to him, listen to him. And so when he’s on the field, I think we’re a more effective team. We’re a more dangerous team, for sure. The fact that he’s scoring goals for us and helping in the attacking third, making special plays is exactly what we need.

MF Will Johnson

For Johnson, the Lions are at a point of self-discovery.

We’re getting to a point now where we understand who we are and different guys able to step up in that game. Obviously gives us some fresher legs going into the weekend. So our rotation’s worked out better this time. Guys stepped up and made plays and were counted on in a big way that we didn’t see from the Toronto and the Houston games. So that’s the biggest improvement and now gives us an opportunity to capitalize on a good opportunity at home with some fresh legs on Sunday.

Johnson praised both Giro’s and Pereira’s performances.

They were excellent. Really good. You know, it’s a night where we asked them to travel a long way and play in a tough game for a debut in MLS, but, at the end of the day, they rose to the occasion. They did well. Everything was solid. PC was very good. Obviously gets a nice assist on the goal, so that always helps too. Just really good first steps for them in their careers, and now the challenge is, “Okay, we’ve seen you can do it. So, now you gotta do it for us again and again and again,” because, ultimately, that’s what this is about. We need guys consistent, and we need guys where we know when we put ’em on the field that we’re gonna get that performance week in, week out. So now the challenge is there for them, and the bar has been set.

City has drawn its last two matches after losing the two before that. For Johnson, there is a bit of disappointment.

There is. For sure. And I think that’s a credit to where this group is right now. You know, beginning of the year, you probably think that those are good results, but the way that we played and having leads in the second half of games, there’s a big disappointment not to come away with more points, and that fuels our hunger going into Sunday.

The third match of the season against NYCFC is a challenge for Johnson.

It’s a challenge. Every time that you beat a team, it gets harder to do it again and again. So this game will be harder than the first one, which was then the second was harder than the first one, so this’ll be harder than both of those games, so we’re gonna have to be perfect. They are a team coming off a bad result. They will be motivated. They will be ready to go in a major way, and, if we’re not ourselves and not willing to put in the work and be good and disciplined, we won’t get the results that we look forward to that challenge.

After playing a match at home and a match away against NYCFC, the Lions return home for the series-finale.

They’re better when there’s more space. They have good soccer players. So they move the ball around well, and that’s a part where, I mean, if our discipline’s not right, where we close the areas that we want to dictate the game and with the right mentality and with the right aggressive shape, we’ll get ourselves stretched out in a bad place because of how good they are with the ball, which, on a bigger field, obviously means that we’ve gotta be better, in that regard, when we don’t have the ball. So, we look forward to it. We are a team that’s in a better place with the ball than we were in the first week. We understand who we are and how important the ball is to us. So we’ve gotta look to keep it, and then when we don’t have it, defend well and limit their opportunities, ‘cus, like I said, they’re a good team.

Johnson doesn’t pay attention to the fact that they haven’t won a match in May yet.

No, we take every game one game at a time, and we try to win that game. Obviously we’ve put in some good shifts and haven’t gotten the results. You could argue earlier in the year there were a few games we were a little bit fortunate to hold onto the win, so it’s all a learning process. Every game’s unique. Every game’s different. We’ve got the opportunity to earn three points on Sunday, and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. At home, we feel that that’s our stadium, that’s our place. We want to dictate the play, we want to win the game. So we’re going for the three points.

DF Scott Sutter

Sutter sees his team’s performance against San Jose as a “better, all-around performance by the whole team.”

It was definitely a better, all-around performance by the whole team. It wasn’t easy couple games we had last time. I think we were defensively a lot more compact, and we worked better as a team, and I felt that for large parts of the game. We were in control of the match. Having spoken to the coach after the game, it didn’t really take that much out of me physically…’cus it didn’t feel like we were chasing the game, so I think it was tactically a good performance by the whole team, and it’s just a shame we didn’t come away with three points.

Sutter previously played in Switzerland for Swiss Super League side BSC Young Boys before joining City. For him, the traveling situation has been “good so far.”

It’s been good so far. We haven’t had too much of it. Maybe ask me at the end of the season, I’ll give you better feedback. It’s been good, you know. I mean, I’m used to traveling, not so much distance, like we had just now. I had it maybe once or twice before, like in long European games, but, other than that, I mean, the longest flight is probably about three hours that I’m used to. It’s been good, you know. I haven’t really been affected much by it. You’re tired after games anyway. Travel kind of adds to that a bit, but, other than that, it’s been good, and it’s just been a really good experience for me, as well. You know, obviously seeing new places, new stadiums and stuff like that. So, I’m really enjoying it still, and, yeah, we just need to get some good results on the road. We can’t just rely on our home form. But I think the game against San Jose is definitely a step in the right direction.

Johnson said Giro’s performance was brilliant.

I thought he was brilliant. I really, really did. I remember, you know, when I was in the first half watching him, and I thought he might be a bit nervous, you know, a beginning—first start, first time he can get the opportunity to play, but he didn’t show that at all. He just had confidence on the ball, and it’s definitely an addition to the squad, knowing that you’ve got two good players on that position for these trips that you can rotate and, yeah, really happy that he got an assist as well.

For Sutter, there’s a bit of added pressure playing against NYCFC for the third time so early in the season.

A lot bigger field. That’s another thing that comes to it. Certain things in the MLS that are really different from what I’m used to and playing for the third time, I think, in 12 games is definitely one of them. It’s not easy. I mean, you can kind of say it’s good because you kinda know the opponent inside, out now, but, in the same time, it adds that little bit of pressure, I guess. But the momentum is definitely in our favor that we’ve got the last two victories, so we can definitely look to show that confidence, and we’re playing at home. So, that’s just what we need.

NYCFC is coming off a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.

I think they’ll be fired up in a different sense. They won’t be full of confidence after the last result, but we know how it is after a loss. You definitely wanna show the action, and I think they’ll definitely be gunning for us, and it’s just our job to keep them at bay and just play like how we know how to play at home.

For Sutter, he wasn’t aware his team hadn’t won a game in May until asked about it on Thursday.

I didn’t actually know that until you said that, that we haven’t won in the month of May. As you know, the games have been coming thick and fast, so you kinda really just got time to think about that game and reflect shortly on that game once it’s passed. But, you know, we got into every game, and we wanna definitely get a win. We’re unfortunate, I think, in the last couple of games. The one at San Jose, I think we deserve to win. And the one against Kansas City was the same. I think we did enough for the result, and same that our goal was disallowed at the end. So, it could quite easily have been two wins. So, it’s tough, you just need to move forward and live to take the positives from the last game we had, and, like I said, I think we’re on a really good path and hope to keep it going.

When asked about NYCFC and the problems they present, Sutter specifically mentioned two players.

They’re a strong team. We know that they’ve definitely got individual quality. Obviously, [Andrea] Pirlo we don’t need to discuss. [Jack] Harrison’s having a great season so far, so, you know, there’s certain individual players that can really bring something to them, so it’s just up to us to kinda shut them down and really show that we’re the home team. We’re undefeated at home, and we wanna keep that going… So, I don’t think we need to focus too much on them, despite playing them a third time. I think we just need to focus on ourselves and to get the game we know we can play going.

DF Victor “PC” Giro

(translated from Spanish)

For Giro, his first start “felt really good.”

It felt really good. I think we did a very good job defensively. It wasn’t a perfect game because we didn’t get the three points, but we had very good chances, and I was very happy that it was my first game in MLS. So, I felt very good and very happy.

After the match, Giro and Pereira were given the game ball by the coaching staff and players.

Yeah, it was amazing. I wasn’t expecting it. I saw that the players and the coaches were signing it, and I didn’t know who it was for, and then I saw it was for us, and it felt really good. It’s good that the staff and the players did this for us because we felt very good for our debut, and receiving this ball just made it even better.

Giro only found out he was starting against San Jose the day before the game.

I found out one day before the game, but I was calm. I had been training a lot, very hard in the sessions, and I knew that I was ready for this opportunity. And, obviously, it felt good. And also the support of my teammates and staff helped me be calm and confident.

For Giro, having Pereira next to him was beneficial because they were both able to speak Portuguese.

Yeah, it was very good. The communication, obviously—both of us speak Portuguese, so it made it a lot easier for both of us to get our first starts together—it felt really good. If it would’ve been another defender, we would’ve done well, too, but, obviously being next to Léo, with the communication in Portuguese, it made it easier for us.

Giro said OCB helped prepare him for his first start.

I think that us being with OCB, it prepared us well. We’ve been training hard with the first team as well, so we knew what the pace was. Obviously not playing with them, the team is a little bit more competitive. It presents some challenges as well, but I think that we were prepared. The fact that we’ve been with OCB helped us as well.

Giro said Kaká and Antonio Nocerino gave him advice before the game.

Yes, Ricky and Nocerino always speak to us to give us confidence and help us when we’re on the field so we can perform well. Both of them spoke with us and gave us that confidence that we needed as well.

For Giro, the biggest thing he learned during his first start was English.

I don’t know. I think English was the thing that I learned the most in this game because I had Servando [Carrasco] and Will [Johnson] in front of me. Luis [Gil] was also up there, so I needed to make sure I communicated with them. So I think English is what I learned the most in this game.