The burgeoning #KreisOut movement on social media gained an influential new member on Friday when CEO Alex Leitão joined the clamoring cacophony of critics and announced that the continually castigated Jason Kreis was indeed out as Orlando City’s head coach.
Another day, another sport, another professional coach in Orlando loses his job.
At least the Orlando Magic traditionally wait until after the season is over to fire their growing list of failed head coaches. At least when the Magic fire their coaches, the team is at the bottom of the standings, not above the playoff line. You wonder if Orlando City, by ousting yet another coach in the middle of the season, is traveling down the same never-ending road of futility and instability as their hapless NBA brothers.
“This is a very difficult decision to take, but sometimes in sports we must make tough decisions with the best future of the organization in mind,” Leitão said in a statement. “I have enormous respect for Jason and the work his team did in Orlando. He arrived in a difficult moment and is leaving with a legacy of respect and professionalism. Now is the time to look forward, keep our heads high and continue pushing toward the many goals we set this season.”
Does anybody really think this is going to help Orlando City continue to push toward anything — except the beginning of another rebuild? What good does it do to fire Kreis and two of his assistant coaches in the middle of a season when the team is still above the playoff line?
Believe me, I get that the Magic, er, Lions were in a state of free fall after one of the most baffling cases of bottoming out in MLS history. It is truly astounding that Orlando City followed up a franchise-record six-match winning streak with a franchise-record six-match losing streak. It was just five weeks ago, after the Lions beat Real Salt Lake 3-1, that I wrote a column underneath this headline: “After record win, Orlando City fans need to start appreciating Kreis.”
It turns out the Real Salt Lake victory would be Kreis’ last as the team collapsed amid massive injuries, repeated defensive breakdowns and players who appeared to quit in their last two matches.
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand Leitão’s reasoning for jettisoning Kreis, but I don’t agree with it. The fact is, the Lions, with almost an entirely new roster, were supposed to get better as the season progressed and they were clearly getting worse. The 3-0 loss to a miserable Montreal side on Wednesday night — as erudite ProSoccerUSA.com writer Jordan Culver so eloquently put it — was truly “shambolic.”
And it certainly didn’t help his cause that Kreis constantly and annoyingly blamed the officials instead of himself and his players. Let’s be honest, shall we? It wasn’t the MLS refs who got Kreis fired; it was his own hand-picked players who literally and figuratively kicked him out the door. Remember what Kreis said before the season after revamping the roster and bringing in 14 new players?
“This is now our team and these are our guys,” the coach stated adamantly. “… We want guys who want to compete, who want to win and who feel the pain when we don’t win. Every single player we’ve brought in has sat down with me, looked me in the eye and told me they want to win.”
Guess what, Coach?
They lied to you.
When I think about the real reason for Kreis’ ouster, I can’t help but recall the famous words of legendary NFL coach Bill Parcells, who, in stating his desire to have more authority in personnel matters, once said, “If they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
Well, Kreis, in fact, was allowed to shop for the groceries and it appears he came home with sour milk, rotten bananas and spoiled bologna. And the meal he ultimately prepared was bland, undercooked and smelled funny.
Even so, I think Kreis deserved a chance to at least see if he could right the ship after the World Cup break. I’m not a huge fan of changing coaches in the middle of the season, especially when these players were specifically chosen to play in Kreis’ system.
Then again, this is simply the way it’s done in the volatile, turbulent world of big-time soccer. Here’s all you need to know about the importance that elite soccer clubs place on the coaching position: Spain fired its coach Julen Lopetegui TWO DAYS before the World Cup was set to begin.
Remember Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri, whose perennially pathetic club two years ago beat 5,000-to-1 odds and won the English Premier League for the first time in the 133-year history of the franchise? He was fired nine months later.
At least Kreis lasted longer than beloved former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath, who took over an expansion club and was fired after a year-and-a-half.
Kreis, at least, lasted nearly two years at Orlando City. In his last job, he took over an expansion club at New York City FC and was fired after his first season.
In soccer, you better win and you better win NOW.
Otherwise, it’s lights out.