Orlando City (6-8-1, 19 points) has lost six consecutive matches and sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference table. The Lions are still in playoff position, but the front office on Friday decided to cut ties with coach Jason Kreis and look for its third head coach since 2016, with assistant coach Bobby Murphy taking over as interim.
With Orlando City on an MLS break until June 23, here’s a look into the future for the club:
When Adrian Heath was fired in July 2016, it took exactly two weeks for Orlando City to name Jason Kreis as his replacement.
From Friday, when Kreis was fired, until June 29, Orlando City has two games. The first is a U.S. Open Cup match against D.C. United at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Wednesday. After that, Orlando City has a rematch against the Montreal Impact on June 23.
One day after the two-week period, Orlando City faces current Supporters’ Shield leaders Atlanta United at Mercedes-Bez Stadium.
Potential coaching targets
When Orlando City conducted its search for a new head coach two years ago, the criteria set forth by the front office – which, at the time, still included Phil Rawlins – were: experience coaching soccer in the U.S., in-depth knowledge of MLS rules and the ability to immediately lead Orlando City to the playoffs.
Even without Rawlins around, the ability to lead Orlando City to the playoffs clearly still is important.
With that in mind, here are three domestic candidates who could fit Orlando City’s needs. The Lions also are expected to look extensively in Latin America and Europe:
Caleb Porter – Obviously a name that has been thrown around in connection with any MLS club with a potential opening. Porter, the former head coach for the Portland Timbers, won an MLS Cup in 2015. As shown when Orlando City hired Jason Kreis, a championship pedigree is important here.
There were rumors Porter was set to join FC Cincinnati while the ever-popular USL side was making a push for MLS. As that process dragged a bit, the rumors died down. Plus, current FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch dismissed that rumor.
It’s unlikely the 43-year-old Porter will be idle too much longer. He checks off many of the same boxes Kreis did when he was hired. He could take advantage of a highly talented roster that hasn’t yet lived up to expectations.
James O’Connor – A 38-year-old proven winner at the USL level and a former Orlando City player, O’Connor is an exciting prospect. The current boss at 2017 USL Champion Louisville City, O’Connor was with the Lions back in their USL days.
Orlando City’s defense hasn’t been great. Under O’Connor, second-place Louisville City’s defense has given up just seven goals through 11 matches. Last season, Louisville City scored 58 goals had had a plus-27 goal differential.
O’Connor’s current contract with Louisville City goes through 2020.
A drawback with O’Connor? Orlando City had a proven USL winner in Heath and sacked him a season and 1/2 into his MLS tenure with the Lions.
Marc Dos Santos – If he can be snatched from Bob Bradley’s staff at LAFC, it could be big for Orlando City. Considered a promising coach, the 41-year-old is a two-time NASL Manager of the Year, a USL champion (with the Montreal Impact) and the 2017 NASL Soccer Bowl champion with the now-defunct San Francisco Deltas.
In an interview with Portuguese outlet Tribuna Expresso, Dos Santos said he had some proposals to go to MLS. LAFC was fortunate to get him and he could be a strong MLS coach.
Orlando City’s front office has shown it has a win-now mentality and will be quick to let a coach go when that coach doesn’t meet expectations. Heath and Kreis both had less than two years to prove their cases as coaches, but whoever takes over next will have talent to work with.
The attack has veterans in Dom Dwyer, Sacha Kljestan and Justin Meram and promising first-year players in Chris Mueller and Josué Colmán. Midfielder Yoshi Yotún won’t be at the World Cup forever. It’s the Lions’ back line that needs the most work, but the right coach could get the most out of the Lions.
The drawback here is the current roster was, by all accounts, handpicked by Kreis. Orlando City brought in a host of new players this offseason and jettisoned anyone who didn’t fit with Kreis’ vision. Some players like right back RJ Allen, centerback Chris Schuler and midfielder Will Johnson have been around Kreis for years.
If the new coach can’t connect with roster brought in to give Kreis the best opportunity to succeed, things could go further south in a hurry. The right coach, however, could still lead Orlando City to the playoffs this season.