MONTREAL — After Orlando City dropped its fifth-consecutive MLS match on Saturday in Vancouver, a visibly-frustrated Jason Kreis said he needed to speak to specific players about their performances.
He didn’t say which members of the team he planned to sit down with, but after Tuesday’s training session in Montreal, he said he spoke with the players he needed to.
Those players got the message, he said.
“Everybody’s on board here,” Kreis said. “Everybody wants, in the worst way, to win. You see signs of frustration and you see moments of lack of focus and those all come from a very honest place. Very honest places that we all feel very, very desperate to win.
“Players need to be spoken to, need to be held accountable for those situations and then they need to be supported and I think everybody understands that.”
Orlando City (6-7-1, 19 points) will try to snap its franchise-record losing streak in MLS play on Wednesday against the Montreal Impact (4-11-0, 12 points).
Despite not winning a league match since May 6, the Lions are still above the playoff line.
“This group is probably the most together group that I’ve ever been around,” Kreis said. “That’s the honest truth. That’s part of what makes me really, really believe in this team. I think if we can right the ship here very soon, I think that this is going to be a team that’s going to really make some waves.”
Right back Will Johnson said between Saturday and Wednesday, members of the team met with each other – as a group and one-on-one – to discuss how everyone can better come together.
“These stretches are emotional,” he said. “They’re tough on everybody and we speak to each other about it. It’s better to talk it through and make sure we’re all on the same page and understanding how we can help each other.
“It’s on us. It’s time. We’ve got to step up. We understand as players that there’s certain moments in games that are more important than others and we haven’t made those players over this last little stretch. We’ve played well for certain parts of games, but in the moments, it just hasn’t been there.
“Tomorrow night, when we get chances on goal to hit the target and make a play for our group, we’ve got to make them. When we get a chance to make a defense play, we’ve got to make that, too.”
Part of righting the ship comes down to how frequently the Lions have conceded the first goal of the match. Early in the season, this wasn’t much of an issue. Orlando City conceded first in seven of its first nine league matches and came back to win or draw in five of them.
That’s no longer the case. Orlando City has conceded first in every match of its losing streak.
“At the beginning of the season, I think we were efficient, but we didn’t have much control of the game, said defensive midfielder Cristian Higuita. “Now I feel like we have a lot of control of the game, but we’re not efficient and I think that’s the difference.”
Star striker Dom Dwyer hasn’t been in the starting XI for four of the club’s last five matches. He’s by far Orlando City’s most efficient goal scorer, with 29.2 percent of his shots finding the back of the net. Dwyer came off the bench in Orlando City’s match against Vancouver, marking his return from an adductor strain.
“It’s an interesting situation because he’s so goal-hungry,” Kreis said about Dwyer. “He’s always in those spots. … He becomes a real focal point for our opponents to worry about. When we don’t have him there, I feel like the back four of other teams is just dropping off because there’s really nobody to be concerned with in and around the penalty box.
“We’ve tried to find different answers to that. We’ve tried to coach up the players and make sure they’re getting themselves into those positions. But at the end of the day, a player like Dom, it’s just second nature. It’s what he does and you don’t have to coach that.”
Orlando City’s spot above the playoff line is precarious, at best. Both Chicago (5-7-3, 18 points) and Philadelphia (5-7-3, 18 points) are within a point of the Lions, though both clubs as of Tuesday have played 15 games, compared to Orlando City’s 14.
Still, the Lions are looking for some separation.
“All games are must-wins, but tomorrow’s definitely a really important game for us to win so that we don’t leave this road trip with our hands empty,” Higuita said.