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Orlando City coach Jason Kreis confident club can avoid another slump

Orlando City SC forward Christopher Mueller (17) kicks the ball down field as Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley (4) looks on at BMO Field. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Orlando City coach Jason Kreis has been encouraged by what he’s seen from his club, despite back-to-back losses against quality opponents.

That’s not to say the Lions (6-4-1, 19 points) are happy with losing. Kreis has just been able to take positives from those losses.

It’s a mentality similar to what permeated the club after a 0-2-1 start. No one is pressing the panic button yet, but there’s a sense of urgency heading into the club’s next match at home. Orlando City plays the slumping Chicago Fire (3-6-2, 11 points) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday in Orlando City Stadium.

“For me, the energy feels right,” Kreis said. “The confidence level feels right. The togetherness, the commitment, everything in the training sessions the last two days feels like we’re heading in a positive direction.”

Kreis said the ideas of the coaching staff are reaching the club’s players.

“Now it’s about the moments, right?” Kreis said.

“At the beginning of the Atlanta game, we don’t open up the right way. We’re allowing too many transitions because we’re not good enough with the ball at the beginning of the game, so that was an area wanted to really clean up for the Toronto game. We wanted more control of the game, and we go to Toronto and we had a lot more control of the game.

“I would say that we have to be one of the very few opponents that’s going to go into Toronto and have more possession than they do at their stadium. So we’ve controlled the game better and now we just have a couple of really dodgy mistakes late in the game.”

Orlando City is trying to avoid another swoon like what it went through after a hot start last year. The Lions’ spiral toward the worst MLS season in club history began around this time last season. Orlando City started hot, winning six of seven matches and then won just one match in May.

A bad May was followed by a worse summer – Orlando City went 1-6-5 in June, July and August.

“I think we’re looking at positives,” right back Will Johnson said. “We’re not trying to be somebody we’re not. We’re sticking to who we are, looking at the tape. We’re being hard on ourselves. Accountability is different. Competition for spots is different across the board.

“We’ve got to just continue to stay calm – we’re not going to panic – and prove that we’ve learned those lessons from last year.”

Kreis said the vibe surrounding this year’s team is different when compared to this time last season.

Still, he added the team feels “sick to the stomach” after losing back-to-back matches.

“Like it or not, last year, after all those wins we put together at the very beginning of the season, I was still kind of scratching my head a little bit saying, ‘I think we’re a lot more fortunate than, probably, we deserve to be,’” Kreis said.

“This year, I feel like we earned all of those six wins in a row. We didn’t get something out of luck or chance. We got them because we were the better team in the games. I would say that these past two performances, I think could make arguments that we should have walked out with more points in both of those games than we got.”

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