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Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão lays out timeline for new coach, no position for Kaká

Orlando City SC CEO Alex Leitão watches an Orlando City training session. (Jordan Culver, Orlando Sentinel)

Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão is clear regarding the type of coach he wants next for the club: He wants someone who can come in and win immediately.

Leitão, speaking exclusively to ProSoccerUSA.com, said candidates are being interviewed for Orlando City’s head coaching vacancy and he hopes to name the club’s new head coach next week. Jason Kreis on Friday was fired as the head coach of Orlando City with the Lions on a six-match losing streak in league play. 

For now, Orlando City GM Niki Budalić is conducting early interviews. Candidates will be separated into four categories – for instance, which is the hungriest, the youngest, the most experienced – and then the leaders of those categories will be submitted to Leitão and club owner Flávio Augusto da Silva for review.

There is a press conference scheduled for Saturday before the Lions take on the Montreal Impact, but the club won’t be naming a head coach, Leitão said.

“As much as we understand that fans are very anxious, that we are very anxious and to give the fans as name as fast as possible, it’s very, very important to us to do it right,” Leitão said in a phone interview. “We’re not rushing. We’re not going to take too much time with process.

“I believe we’ll be able to announce a name next week. It’s great to know this club is a desirable club. We have interest from hundreds of people. They believe in the players we have. They believe in the fan base.”

Leitão declined to name specific candidates, but did shut down one rumor: Brazilian legend Kaká will not be taking a position with Orlando City. He said the two did have a conversation regarding soccer, but Kaká is not a candidate for any position.

“The club’s doors are always open for [Kaká],” he said. “The moment he decides what he wants to do, we’d love to give him the opportunity. He wants to study under someone. We didn’t talk about him accepting any kind of role with the club right now.”

Leitão added he has confidence in the leadership of interim coach Bobby Murphy.

“I trust him,” Leitão said. “He was here before Jason and he’ll be here. He’s the guy who knows the club, knows the players. He’s the right guy at this stage with us. I hope he can continue to contribute with us when the new coach comes.”

To Orlando City’s fan base, Leitão said not to read too much into his recent absence from social media.

“The taking time away from social media is because we need that time,” he said. “We need those days to really make reflections and understand the mistakes we made and try to do it in a way where we don’t need to do it again. That’s why we are more calm and low profile, behind the scenes.”

Leitão said he was sorry for the way things ended with Kreis, but knew it was the time to make a change. He said because the Lions (6-8-1, 19 points) have time away from MLS play, it gives the front office extra time to do due diligence in its search for a head coach.

He added he has the utmost respect for Kreis, as well as assistant coaches CJ Brown and Miles Joseph, who were also fired.

“It’s a tough business,” Leitão said.

“In the world of football, this is normal. This happens. This is not something you wanted when you hire someone. You want someone to complete his cycle, deliver the wins and stay.”

Leitão had a direct message for fans awaiting news.

“They can blame me for sometimes the mistakes I make, but never for not acting,” he said. “Never for not trying to do what’s best for the club. We brought this club from USL to MLS. We built a fantastic stadium. We’re going to build our training facility this year. Our academy is in the playoffs. We brought women’s soccer to Orlando and they were in the playoffs last season and are in third place now. We brought Kaká and Dwyer because we understood it was important.”

“I could just relax and give time and see what happens. This is not my nature. This is not how I want to do things. I’m not going to take the easy path. I’ll take the path that I believe is best for the club. This is exactly what I’m doing.”

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