After missing out again on making the MLS Cup playoffs last year, Orlando City coach Jason Kreis knew drastic changes needed to be made.
“I don’t think we went into this offseason saying we need to get better in the goal scoring, but not in the defense,” Kreis said. “Last year at this time, I really felt the goals were there, we just needed to short things up defensively.
“But looking back at things from last year, we feel we need to improve everywhere. That’s how we’ve gone into this offseason is to try to identify the players that are the right ones that should stay and go out and get new ones to complement that group. I would say that we need to be better on both sides of the ball.”
Orlando had the third-worst offense in the league last year, scoring 39 team goals in 2017.
The club bolstered its attack, in part, by signing MLS veteran midfielder Sacha Kljestan from the New York Red Bulls, midfielder Justin Meram from the Columbus Crew and young attacking midfielder Josué Colmán last month.
Orlando City was busy during the offseason, but the Lions may not be done yet.
“We did make a few moves with the offense. We also added a left back, left center-back, two holding midfielders. So maybe we’re not looking quite in detail enough on the defensive signings we made already,” said Kreis. “Finally, I do think there will be one more signing and that will be on the defensive side of things.”
Two weeks into the preseason, Kreis is still determining who will be the club’s next captain.
Brazilian star Kaká, who left the club at the end of the season, served as the Lions’ captain from 2015-17, but Kreis told reporters on Monday he’s narrowing the search for the midfielder’s replacement.
“We have a group of players that we are closely watching, how they’re working and how the dynamic is of the team and we will choose a captain out of that group,” Kreis said. “We may choose a couple captains out of that group. We may do things differently, we may not just have one guy that’s club captain. We may have a small group of guys that will be club captains.
“I do think we have terrific candidates, and we’re watching over them in the next month and will make a decision before the first regular-season match.”
Orlando City’s newest young designated player, Colmán, suffered a bruised quad early last week, but Kreis said he should return to training this week as he recovers.
“Josué trained for the first four, five days and picked up a little bit of an injury,” Kreis said. “So, we didn’t have him for about over the last week. But those four to five days he was really impressive. He’s extremely technically gifted. He does things at a very rapid rate. He’s got tremendous speed, quickness, agility. Good one-on-one player with the ball. We were seeing all of those signs showing up and then he picked up that injury that has kept him out for the last week. But he should be back working into things this week.”
Young Lions’ development
Heading into the offseason, Orlando City announced its USL club, Orlando City B, will sit out for the 2018 USL season.
The Lions also announced their partnership with the Soccer Institute of Montverde Academy based out of Lake County.
Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão broke down why the club decided to take a different route with development this year.
“The reason that we made those moves was to just make our youth and development better and stronger. It’s because we believe in that, because we want to develop players is why we made the decision of first making the partnership with Montverde Academy, and second trying to find a way inside the USL that would make it better in terms of developing of players,” Leitão said.
“Right now, what happened, we almost doubled the investment that we did in the past. We can offer to players residence academy, a full scholarship, a proper soccer infrastructure. We have coaches there with UEFA license A. So, with better fields, better structure, better coaches, we believe we can better develop players.”
Leitão said Orlando City plans to return to USL next year, but it needs to see how the USL lower division primarily for MLS affiliates will be structured.
“We are waiting to see what happens with a possible division three,” Leitão said. “This is what we want, to come back and play next year in that kind of division when we’ll be able to play younger players and then get them developed.”
Orlando City fans will have to wait a bit longer to see 25-year-old defensive midfielder Oriol Rosell.
Kreis said Rosell has run into visa issues, but the coach expects him to arrive and join the team within the next seven to 10 days.